Monday, December 14, 2009

Death Penalty in the News

On December 2, the issue of the death penalty came before the Supreme Court, and they refused to listen to the appeal of death row inmate Cecil Johnson. In the dissent, Justice Stevens made the argument that execution after a lengthy delay was unconstitutional because it was “unacceptably cruel.” Meanwhile, Justice Thomas responded against Stevens saying there was no support for his argument and that the state would never be able to please Stevens’ conditions for justice because of Stevens’ previously-held opinions against the death penalty.

Meanwhile on December 7, Franklin E. Zimring of the National Law Journal reported that the American Law Institute (ALI) had withdrawn its approval of the its own standards for capital punishment. The Supreme Court adopted this standard from the ALI’s Model Penal Code §210.6 during the 1976 case Gregg v. Georgia. However, Zimring states that this standard was weak because the categories of “death-eligible” crimes were too broad, and juries were often left to their own discretion in making the judgment. Nevertheless, the precedent remains, and it is unsure how this withdrawn approval will affect the current legal situation.

Hat tip to Darla Jackson for alerting me to these articles from The BLT: Blog of the Legal Times and the National Law Journal.