Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Can We Not Care About Killing Innocent People?

Salon.com is among those wondering how Justice Scalia can stay on the Supreme Court after the revelation last week that two convicted murderers he once described as lucky to be given the blessing of a lethal injection have turned out to be innocent.

Scalia famously criticized Justice Blackmum for declaring the death penalty as inherently unconstitutional, saying:
Justice Blackmun did not select as the vehicle for his announcement . . . the case of the 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!”
Scalia also once mused over his role in the “the machinery of death” saying:
"My vote, when joined with at least four others, is, in most cases, the last step that permits an execution to proceed. I could not take part in that process if I believed what was being done to be immoral."
It was the overturning of the 1983 conviction of half brothers Leon Brown and Henry Lee McCollum which brought the issue of the death penalty back into the news.  The 15- and 19-year-old brothers, both mentally disabled, were railroaded onto death row over 30 years ago with coerced confessions by a corrupt police department.  Brown eventually had his sentence reduced to life in prison, but McCollum has been awaiting death by lethal injection.  A state commission with power to subpoena evidence looked into the case, and DNA from the scene (which was never tested) and other evidence (which implicated another convicted rapist but was ignored at trial) exonerated the two men.

Heather Digby Parton of Salon.com took the opportunity to call out Scalia on his utter moral failure regarding the death penalty:
Death penalty supporters inevitably use cases like this to illustrate that “the system worked” and, by implication, always works. Except that’s sophistry and everyone knows it. The only reason it worked in this case was because the state of North Carolina empowered an outside commission to investigate. And what they found was malfeasance, a coverup and a corrupt indifference to justice. The legal system obscured the truth at every level and every step along the way. There is no way of knowing how often that happens but any sentient being realizes that it is impossible that this was the only time.

Worst of all, Justice Scalia and other death penalty proponents who find nothing immoral in the state’s conscious, coldblooded taking of a life are equally unconcerned that they might be taking the life of an innocent person. The horrifying injustice in such a mistake (or criminal corruption) is irrelevant. Apparently as long as the train of the legal system runs on time there’s no cause for him to lose any sleep.
Scalia claims that he could not be a judge if he thought his participation in the death penalty was immoral and yet he does not believe it matters under the Constitution if the state executes innocent people. How on earth can such a depraved person be on the Supreme Court of the United States? On what basis can our country lay claim to a superior system of justice and a civilized moral order when such people hold power?

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