The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The shape of things to come

It's become clear that Bush's appointment of two Supreme Court justices has been sufficient to turn the court into a right-wing institution. The decision to overturn a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty makes that rather clear.

The 5-4 outcome was as much a debate about capital punishment as it was a ruling on a unique law in Kansas, which has just eight death row inmates and hasn't executed anyone in 40 years.

The law says that juries should sentence a defendant to die — rather than serve life in prison — when the evidence for and against imposing death is equal.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the conservative majority, said "our precedents establish that a state enjoys a range of discretion in imposing the death penalty."

But the conservatives' arguments seem to hinge on ideology, rather than legal analysis:

"Those ideologically driven to ferret out and proclaim a mistaken modern execution have not a single verifiable case to point to, whereas it is easy as pie to identify plainly guilty murderers who have been set free," [Scalia] said.

He also complained that there has been "sanctimonious criticism of America's death penalty" from people in other countries and that Monday's dissent "will be trumpteted abroad as vindication of these criticisms."

The former assertion is a frightening bit of sophistry-- Scalia ignores the number of death row inmates who've been exonerated with DNA testing in favor of saying no dead man has been found innocent. The latter piece of nationalism would be more at home on the pages of National Review. America should continue to execute people to spite the international community? Insert 'activist judge' comment here.