Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Remolding capital punishment

Today, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision that prevents minors from being executed.
It has narrowed the class of people eligible for execution, excluding juvenile offenders yesterday as it had previously the mentally retarded. It has rebuked lower courts for sending people to their deaths without adequate safeguards. And it has paid increasing attention to the international opposition
to capital punishment.

"Early in the 1990's, we reached the high point in deregulating death," said Franklin E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, alluding to decisions in which the court refused to hear defendants' claims of innocence because they were raised too late. "Then there was very little from the Supreme Court through the 1990's. Now, in a whole series of substantive and procedural decisions, you have a re-regulation taking place."

Opinions vary about where the process will end.

"The trend seems to be pushing toward the abolition of capital punishment," said Rory K. Little, a former Justice Department official who is now a professor at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. "But it would be a mistake to predict that these decisions are leading inexorably to abolition. It could be that they cut out all the edges and leave the core that everyone is
comfortable with."

The purpose of capital punishment is to act as a deterrent to future criminals. In California, that's nearly impossible, as most of our criminals sitting on death row face the grim reaper due to old age, and not a lethal injection. What I fear the most is that we'll be seeing professional criminals passing semi-auto's to minors and getting them to do their dirty work. Since the worst case scenario will consist of the minor heading to jail on LWOP, this will onlyincrease the number of street agent's that are working deals from the inside of prisons.

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