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August 7, 2005

John v. John

Never mind about Rehnquist’s health—worry most about Stevens:

CHICAGO (AP) – Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens steered the debate over President Bush’s nominee to a new subject: capital punishment, sharply condemning the country’s death penalty system. The court has been closely divided in death row cases, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor often in the middle.
President Bush’s choice to replace her, John Roberts, has a limited track record. Roberts, 50, showed little sympathy for prisoner appeals as a government lawyer in the Reagan administration, but later did free legal work for a death row inmate. In a February 1983 memo while serving in the Reagan White House, Roberts suggested that the high court could cut its caseload by “abdicating the role of fourth or fifth guesser in death penalty cases.”
Stevens used a weekend speech to the American Bar Association to underscore the matter’s prominence at the court, noting evidence of “serious flaws.” His remarks provide the first sign of internal dismay over the retirement of O’Connor, a 75-year-old pragmatist who has been a key voter in affirmative action, abortion rights and the death penalty.
Stevens, speaking in his hometown of Chicago, started his Saturday night speech to lawyers with what he called the “sad news” that O’Connor was leaving the court. “It’s really a very, very wrenching experience,” he said.
Stevens said DNA evidence has shown “that a substantial number of death sentences have been imposed erroneously… It indicates that there must be serious flaws in our administration of criminal justice.”
… [Stevens said] the jury selection process and the fact that many trial judges are elected work against accused murderers. He also said that jurors might be improperly swayed by victim-impact statements.

The Court already has four capital cases on its docket when it returns for its next term in October.

Posted by Stephen at 6:02 PM in Legal issues | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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