A collection of the writings of the late Rabbi Leonard Beerman, edited by David N.. Myers, can be found in The Eternal Dissident: Rabbi Leonard I. Beerman and the Radical Imperative to Think and Act, which will be released on May 16. (A free ebook version will also be available through Luminos at publication.) Rabbi Beerman, who was one of the founders of Death Penalty Focus, was considered one of the most inspiring and outspoken Reform rabbis of the 20th century, and renowned for his commitment to social and criminal justice. Temple University Religion, Jewish Studies, and Gender Professor Laura Levitt writes in Eternal Dissident that “Religion is not in the United States or for that matter elsewhere in the world only or exclusively the domain of the political right. This book shows us a genealogy, a legacy of alliance politics that is theologically and ethically bound to a shared vision of social justice.”
In her article,”Dissenting Against the Supreme Court’s Rightward Shift,” in the April 12 New York Times, Linda Greenhouse pays tribute to Stephen Reinhardt, “the famously liberal judge” on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who died last month, after 37 years on the federal court. Greenhouse states that Reinhardt’s stance was “one of open resistance, defiance even, toward a [U.S.] Supreme Court that was moving ever further to his right.” She explains that he was “greatly troubled by the Supreme Court’s turn against habeas corpus,” and says “his project was to keep the habeas corpus door propped open as long as possible in the face of the Supreme Court’s evident determination to shut it ever more tightly.”
In her article, “Too Much Doubt,” in this week’s Intercept, Liliana Segura looks at the case of William T. Montgomery, whose death sentence was commuted to life without parole by Ohio Gov. John Kasich late last month after the state parole board recommended clemency by a vote of six to four. This was the sixth death sentence Kasich has commuted, but as Segura points out, the problem with cases like Montgomery’s and those of other prisoners, the commutation can “reveal a trap that can follow a reprieve based on an innocence claim. Once the looming threat of execution is gone, the urgency around a questionable case can evaporate.”
In a March article, “Florida Could Start a Criminal-Justice Data Revolution,” Wired looks at a new criminal justice reform bill recently approved by the Florida Legislature “that requires every entity within the state’s criminal justice system to collect an unprecedented amount of data and publish it in one publicly accessible database.” If signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, the magazine says the database will reveal “a wealth of nuanced information that could help lawmakers more easily detect the kind of problematic patterns and biases that plague courts and law enforcement agencies across the country.”
In “Eight Reasons for America’s Shameful Number of Wrongful Convictions,” in an LA Times op-ed, John Grisham points out that the number of wrongful convictions in the U.S. is estimated to be between two and 10 percent, which means that there are between 46 thousand and 230 thousand men and women incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit. That’s a staggering number of wrongfully incarcerated, and Grisham gives eight reasons this phenomenon is occurring.
“The medical examiners, police officers, prosecutors, judges and others who hold sway over our criminal justice system around the country have largely failed to deliver justice. We must do better,” he concludes. (This op-ed is adapted from the foreword to The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist, a book we recommended in last month’s Focus.)