In his editorial in Verdict, Austin Sarat says there is such significant “new progress in the effort to abolish America’s death penalty,” that it’s “not too early to begin thinking about what it will be like to live in a country without [it} and to anticipate and plan for the battles that may ensue when it is ended.” Acknowledging that it’s unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court will abolish capital punishment, Sarat suggests that “Perhaps allowing people to come to a democratic decision is more sustainable than the Supreme Court weighing in on such a contentious issue. Political decisions on controversial issues may have greater legitimacy than judicial decisions.”
In her Inquest article, “Too Little, Too Late,” Hannah Riley examines recent decisions by the five members of the Georgia Parole Board. She finds that “they preside over a parole review process that gets a failing grade in a country that is already getting parole, early release, and clemency all wrong.” The injustices of the state’s system are mind-boggling, e.g., Georgia is one of three states that doesn’t hold parole hearings at all; the imprisoned are not permitted to view their own parole files, and those who are denied parole are not given a reason why.
“It’s past time to finish off the slow death of the death penalty. The fact so few inmates were executed this year is encouraging, but it also shows just how random and unjust the ultimate penalty is,” declares the St. Louis Post Dispatch in its recent editorial. Decrying the Trump administration’s killing spree of 13 federal prisoners in 2020-2021, “not to serve the cause of justice but rather Trump’s ego,” the paper called on Pres. Biden to fulfill his campaign promise and abolish the federal death penalty. If his inaction thus far is due to “political calculus….he should redo the math and realize that it would be both good policy and good politics to end this barbaric practice,” the paper says.
In “The Long Afterlife of a Terrible Crime” in The New Yorker, Ryan Katz explores a 1971 murder in Texas, attempting “to find some sense in a senseless act.” His investigation of the murder of Elizabeth Perryman, whose case was eventually linked to at least ten others in several states committed by an extended family, reveals the ripple effects of a murder, not just on the victim’s family but on the killer’s relatives as well, leaving unanswered questions that are never resolved.