While we’re on the subject . . .


In her piece, “How the Supreme Court Stopped Fighting the “Machinery of Death,” in Balls and Strikes, Yvette Borja looks at how far the U.S. Supreme Court has strayed from “seriously considering whether the death penalty could ever be constitutional.” She notes that since the Court’s 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision, which found the death penalty unconstitutional, all five justices in the majority wrote concurrences clarifying their reasoning. All five addressed the inherent racism and classism and the obvious violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. But retiring Justice Stephen Breyer’s consistent dissents in death penalty cases notwithstanding, “Today’s Court, by contrast, only tinkers around the edges.”

The Los Angeles Times says the question facing federal prosecutors as to whether they’ll seek the death penalty against the man accused of shooting 13 people, killing 10, in a Buffalo supermarket in May “should be easy: no.” Prosecutors say 18-year-old Payton Gendron drove 200 miles from his home to a predominantly Black neighborhood, and allegedly opened fire on the supermarket’s customers, all of whom were Black. Gendron faces ten counts of first-degree and ten counts of second-degree murder charges, and three counts of attempted murder as a hate crime. He is also facing a domestic terror charge, which carries a mandatory life without parole sentence if he is found guilty. But DOJ hasn’t indicated whether it will seek the death penalty against Gendron, despite President Biden’s campaign promise to abolish the federal death penalty. “The particulars of the Buffalo case — a horrendous act of racial terrorism — test the principles of justice. Yet seeking to execute Gendron would be to answer immorality with a moral wrong,” the paper’s editorial states. “State and federal punishments should not include execution because judicial killing has no place in a civilized society.”

In his op-ed, “An easy win for criminal justice reform: Independent crime labs,” in The Hill, Michael Kusluski argues that a crucial piece in criminal justice reform is “to require crime labs to become independent from police and prosecutor’s offices.” He maintains that this independence is essential, not only to remove the possibility of bias but also, even more critically, in the interests of “good science. . . . The issue is not that police administrators are manipulating the system to their benefit but rather that they are making unqualified decisions,” he writes. 

In her Idaho Law Review article, “Narrowing Death Eligibility in Idaho: An Empirical and Constitutional Analysis,” Idaho College of Law Professor Aliza Cover questions whether Idaho’s death penalty scheme is constitutional. But while “most murderers are eligible for the death penalty, and death is imposed upon only a handful, there is a substantial constitutional argument (1) that the capital scheme fails to fulfill its narrowing function and (2) that the death penalty, when administered, is “cruel and unusual.”

In his review of the book, Redeeming Justice, Stephen F. Rohde says author Jarrett Adams “[Combines] the passion of Bryan Stevenson with the storytelling of John Grisham.” Adams tells the story of how he, a Black man, was wrongfully convicted of the rape of a white woman and sentenced to 28 years in prison by an all-white jury in a trial presided over by a white female judge. Released after eight years, when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated his conviction in 2006, he returned to college, eventually earning a law degree and joining the Innocence Project in New York City. “It is a remarkable story of tenacity, hard work, and genuine achievement,” Rohde writes.

You might also be interested in...

Tennessee’s shameful and shocking treatment of Henry Hodges

A judge’s order late last month means a man on Tennessee’s death row, who slit his wrists before severing his...
Read More

Oklahoma high court denies both of Glossip’s petitions for a hearing on new evidence

In one week, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied two petitions filed by Richard Glossip for an evidentiary hearing...
Read More

Alabama’s governor tries to shift the blame for the state’s botched executions

In a bizarrely-worded statement, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey called for a temporary halt to executions last week. She announced the...
Read More