my pissant two cents

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

killing in the name of...

well, we should definitely pat ourselves on the back. the united states no longer advocates killing children.

noble stand, huh?

the supreme court ruled 4-3 in the case roper v. simmons that it is cruel and unusual punishment to execute those convicted of crimes committed before their 18th birthdays. this is good, and it augurs well for a notion that killing people who kill people to show that killing people is bad is not such a smart thing to do.

justice anthony kennedy wrote the opinion for the majority, stating that the changing social climate makes it improper to impose the death penalty on those who may not have the maturity to appreciate the consequences of their actions. in so stating, kennedy acknowledge that only 20 states allowed such executions.

this follows a 2002 decision that outlawed executing the mentally retarded, which overturned a 1989 decision that said such state-sanctioned killing was both hunky and dory.

this gives one hope. the same court ruled just 17 months ago in lawrence and garner v. texas, finding unconstitutional laws that banned consensual sodomy between adults, overturning the ill-conceived 1986 decision bowers v. hardwick, which upheld such bans. it seems that at least some members of the court are willing to rethink atavistic ruling for the sake of enlightenment.

however-- and there's always a however when the word "enlightenment" is attached to the supreme court-- the minority is not going gently into that good night.

the anti-enlightenment justice "tweedledee" scalia wrote in dissent, joined by chief justice "tweedledum" rehnquist and justice "tweedledumber" thomas, that "the Court thus proclaims itself the sole arbiter of our nation's moral standards -- and in the course of discharging that awesome responsibility purports to take guidance from the views of foreign courts and legislatures."

well, hell. nevermind, for the moment, that in the aforementioned garner decision allowing adults to make their own moral choices regarding what they do with their naughty bits, torquemada scalia worked himself into a froth because the majority of the court refused to make itself the arbiter of the nation's morals.

and also forget that the four in the minority who support state's killing children also oppose women's right to choose because, in their estimation, it kills children. it only proves the adage that conservatives' concern for the sanctity of human life begins at conception and ends at birth.

scalia seems to get his bloomers bunched up because he doesn't like the idea of looking to other nations for guidance on how to comport with evolving standards of human decency. i'll not dwell on the american egotism and exceptionalism that this declaration of hubris entails. rather, i will point out to the justice that it does not require looking to other nations. the simmons ruling was informed, to some extent, by u.s. law.

article iv, clause 2 of the u.s. constitution states: "...all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the united states, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding."

part iii, article 6, section 5 of the international covenant on civil and political rights, signed by the united states, says: "sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women."

granted, the u.s. has yet to ratify the covenant, but that is a fine-line distinction, which the justice likes to so freely draw when it fits his needs. the u.s. signed the treaty, therefore it was made. the treaty should hold some persuasive water, if not bear its full effect. the separation of powers doctrine requires ratification, but the fact that treaty was signed nigh on 30 years ago should have some level of meaning. i would not expect justice scalia to agree, since it does not suit his needs.....

there is no reason to believe that the supremes will ever find the death penalty itself unconstitutional. our history is too firmly entrenched in vengeance and bloodlust for that to happen. but there is reason to hope that the people themselves may someday find a shadow of compassion in their hearts, that they will see that sometimes innocent people are condemned to die (see the film "the exonerated," with wonderful performances by aidan quinn, delroy lindo, susan sarandon and others, for true stories of police and prosecutorial misconduct that allows such things to happen). they will see that in a nation that allows any innocent to perish at the hands of the state, no one is truly free.

i'm not exactly optimistic on this front, but i have hope.

1 Comments:

  • I was completely for the Death Penalty until I saw how the American Injustice System works, firsthand.

    I owned rental property in Connecticut. I could lose my property if there were 3 drug arrests.

    So, I had to report drug activity or lose my property.

    Reporting addicts shooting up in front of tenant children during the day, caused Connecticut State Police officers to threaten me when I called in, no officer sent.

    Teens were swilling alcohol, smoking pot, and selling heroin and crack cocaine all hours off my front yard in lawn chairs, using my property as a toilet.

    I wrote about this in newspapers, calling police armed revenue collectors.

    I was beaten and injured when I came home to my dark driveway tired from a double shift of work.

    The man who beat me and tried to rob me was given immunity to prosecute me for defending myself with pepper spray.

    I was sentenced to a year in prison, 3 years probation, losing my home, dog, family, job, everything.

    The authorities can't be trusted with having a death penalty.

    -Steven G. Erickson aka Vikingas
    FreeSpeech.com

    By Blogger The Stark Raving Viking, at 12:36 PM  

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