Thursday, March 10, 2005

On the Death Penalty for Minors

I have mixed emotions about the Supreme Court ruling last week disallowing the death penalty for minors. Generally, I am against the death penalty on a coldly logical level. I simply do not trust the government with that kind of power. There's too much evidence of examples where they have screwed it up, and if they're wrong, an execution is kind of hard to undo. My feeling is that if one innocent is put to death, that's one too many, and it's simply not worth the primal satisfaction that we get from putting the most heinous criminals amongst us out if it means we're entrusting the same governments that run our schools and DMVs and the IRS with the power to put people to death. Of course, there's always the occasional heinous crime that hits close enough to home, such as Lee Malvo, DC sniper accomplice, who struck at a school in Bowie, Maryland from the woods behind my mother's townhouse, or the brutal slaying of a Fishtown teenager by his best friends for $500, that make me question my stance.

Despite that small misgiving, I suppose I would have to favor the Supreme Court's decision, but I'm far from pleased with the basis for the majority decision, which has clearly overstepped the bounds established by the constitution in Article 3, Section 2:

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority

The majority opinion doesn't even bother with the facade of following this prescription. Instead, they base their opinion on "national consensus", which is quite frankly bullshit. As Edwin J. Feulner points out:

Indeed, a majority of death penalty states authorize the punishment for 16- and 17-year olds who commit certain premeditated and aggravated murders. So much for a supposed national consensus.

and even more galling, they then cite "international consensus" which is nothing short of absolute travesty. Mark Alexander explains:

Adding grievous insult to this "national consensus" injury, Kennedy cited "international consensus" noting "the overwhelming weight of international opinion" as a factor in the Court's decision. Kennedy referenced the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child when writing, "The United States is the only country in the world that continues to give official sanction to the juvenile death penalty." Here, his message was all too clear: The High Court is building a tradition of referring "to the laws of other countries and to international authorities as instructive for its interpretation" of the U.S. Constitution.

Sadly, noting international standards and conventions in rulings seems to be the latest fashion among the Supremacists.

In 2003, Justices Ginsburg and Breyer upheld an affirmative-action policy at the University of Michigan, noting an international treaty endorsing race-based advancement for minorities. Stevens, for his part, cited international law in overturning another capital case:

Within the world community, the...death overwhelmingly disapproved." Furthermore, in Lawrence v. Texas, Kennedy wrote that the European Court of Human Rights has affirmed the "rights of homosexual adults to engage in intimate, consensual conduct.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said recently, "I suspect that over time we will rely increasingly...on international and foreign courts in examining domestic issues." Justice Breyer added, "We see all the time, Justice O'Connor and I, and the others, how the world really -- it's trite but it's true -- is growing together. The challenge [will be] whether our Constitution...fits into the governing documents of other nations."


Shall we revisit your oath of office, Sandra?

""I, Sandra Day O'Connor, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as Supreme Court Justice under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.''


Got that? Not "under national consensus", and sure as shootin' not "under international consensus". I really need to get off of this topic, 'cause it makes me so angry, I'm gonna end up using language that's gonna scare my one reader away.


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