In his piece, “The Supreme Court Shows No Signs of Slaking Its Thirst for Capital Punishment,” in The New Republic, Matt Ford points out that the U.S. Supreme Court “does not consider every contentious legal issue in every term,” except “perhaps” for capital punishment. “Since the court effectively abolished capital punishment in 1972 and then brought it back in 1976, the justices have served as de facto administrators of America’s machinery of death,” he writes. He points to two Texas cases, Rodney Reed’s, which concerns post-conviction DNA testing, and Andre Thomas’s — a Black man who plucked out his own eyes while in prison but was still found mentally competent to stand trial — who was sentenced to death by an all-white jury after they listened to a racist closing argument from the prosecutor. These two cases “underscore how far the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority will go to “keep that machinery running.”
In his Slate article, “Alabama Wants to Become the Second State in 76 Years to Get an Execution Do-Over,” Austin Sarat writes about Alabama’s botched execution of Alan Miller last month, during which the execution team tried for three hours to find a vein for their lethal injection drugs before they were forced to abandon the killing because the death warrant was expiring. Two weeks after this barbarism, the state attorney general announced he was asking the state Supreme Court to set another execution date for Miller. “Death is always a cruel punishment. But it is never more so than when someone has experienced that cruelty firsthand and then survived,” Sarat writes.
In her article, “Prosecutors’ biggest roadblock in wrongful conviction cases? Missouri’s attorney general,” in the Missouri Independent, Rebecca Rivas looks at a law the state passed last year “that gives [prosecutors who believe a person was wrongfully convicted] a pathway to present evidence of innocence to a judge.” However, she writes, when prosecutors filed motions in three cases of wrongful conviction right after the law went into effect, all had “one thing in common: Fierce opposition from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.”
“Since the explosion of the American prison population and the rise of social media, which has allowed images of Black Americans dying at the hands of police to go viral, the utopian notion of an America without police or prisons has moved from the leftist fringe to the outskirts of the mainstream,” Bill Keller writes in his NY Review of Books review of Mariame Kaba’s, We Do This ‘Til We Free us. He attributes this change to “charismatic scholar-activists” like Kaba, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and Angela Y. Davis, and Rachel Herzing, who co-wrote the title essay of Kaba’s book, “who argue that what they call ‘the “prison-industrial complex’ or, to use Kaba’s term, the ‘criminal punishment system’ (what most people call the criminal justice system), is too corrupt for mere ‘reform.'”
In their recent article, “Atkins v. Virginia at Twenty: Still Adaptive Deficits, Still in the Developmental Period,” in the Washington and Lee Law Review, Sheri Lynn Johnson, John H. Blume, and Brendan Van Winkle examine how “recalcitrant state courts and legislatures” have created obstacles that “effectively nullify” the law’s prohibition on executing those with intellectual disabilities, “and how the federal courts, often equally recalcitrant, have, for the most part, refused to intervene.:
Murder at the Supreme Court
Lethal Crimes and Landmark Cases/Martin Clancy and Tim O’Brien