John Paul Stevens Explains Why He Stopped Supporting The Death Penalty
In an upcoming New York Times New York Review of Books article, former Justice John Paul Stevens explains why he changes his view of the death penalty after having voted in 1976 to reinstate it. In 2008 Stevens wrote he now believed the death penalty to be unconstitutional. Now he explains his reasoning.
…he wrote that personnel changes on the court, coupled with “regrettable judicial activism,” had created a system of capital punishment that is shot through with racism, skewed toward conviction, infected with politics and tinged with hysteria.
Stevens’ explanation comes by way of a review of the book Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition, by David Garland, a professor of law and sociology at New York University.
In discussing the book, Justice Stevens defended the promise of the Supreme Court’s 1976 decisions reinstating the death penalty even as he detailed the ways in which he said that promise had been betrayed.
With the right procedural safeguards, Justice Stevens wrote, it would be possible to isolate the extremely serious crimes for which death is warranted. But he said the Supreme Court had instead systematically dismantled those safeguards.
Justice Stevens said the court took wrong turns in deciding how juries in death penalty cases are chosen and what evidence they may hear, in not looking closely enough at racial disparities in the capital justice system, and in failing to police the role politics can play in decisions to seek and impose the death penalty.Click here for reuse options!
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