United States Supreme Court questions constitutionality of the death penalty

Although Richard Glossip‘s appeal to the Supreme Court failed today, there are signs that the death penalty may in future be declared unconstitutional.

Justice Breyer wrote:

“In 1976, the Court thought that the constitutional infirmities in the death penalty could be healed; the Court in effect delegated significant responsibility to the States to develop procedures that would protect against those constitutional problems. Almost 40 years of studies, surveys, and experience strongly indicate, however, that this effort has failed. Today’s administration of the death penalty involves three fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose. Perhaps as a result, (4) most places within the United States have abandoned its use.”

He goes on to give an excellent analysis of the many problems with the death penalty, including the statement:

“In light of these and other factors, researchers estimate that about 4% of those sentenced to death are actually innocent.”

and concludes:

“For the reasons I have set forth in this opinion, I believe it highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment. At the very least, the Court should call for full briefing on the basic question.”

I agree. It’s time to end the death penalty once and for all. It is both cruel and unusual punishment.

See here for some points in response to Justice Scalia.

More reaction at DPIC.

The End of the Death Penalty? By Robert J. Smith, Slate.com, July 2015

The Intercept Article by Liliana Segura.

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