Monday, June 26, 2006

The Two-Tailed Quarter in Kansas

If you're up for a capital crime and it comes down to a coin flip in Kansas, you've already lost. At least that's what the Supremes voted today in a case that makes it clear that Alito-Scalia-Thomas-Roberts will be a fearsome foursome against pretty much all civil liberties. The AP reports:

The law says that juries should sentence a defendant to die — rather than serve life in prison — when the evidence for and against imposing death is equal.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the conservative majority, said "our precedents establish that a state enjoys a range of discretion in imposing the death penalty."

But Justice David H. Souter, writing for the court's liberals, said the law would lead to death sentences in doubtful cases and "is obtuse by any moral or social measure."

Responding for the conservatives, Thomas wrote, "What are these social and moral measures you speak of? These are the Bush years...bwa-ha-ha-ha."

The four liberal members stopped short Monday of calling for an end to capital punishment (as "liberals" in the U.S. government, they by definition stop short before risking an actual stand), but they pointed to studies finding that dozens of people condemned to death were later exonerated.

"We are thus in a period of new empirical argument about how `death (capital punishment) is different,'" Souter wrote.

He said that pressure for prosecutors to win convictions, eyewitness misidentifications and false confessions have contributed to "hazards of capital prosecution."

Scalia, in response, said those studies were not proven. "Those ideologically driven to ferret out and proclaim a mistaken modern execution have not a single verifiable case to point to, whereas it is easy as pie to identify plainly guilty murderers who have been set free," he said.

Souter quickly pointed out that Scalia really makes pies that taste dreadful, insisting the cherry pie Scalia brought to the Supreme's Memorial Day picnic was in particular "a soggy mess, with crust practically oozing Crisco. Oh, and besides, the choice isn't between killing them and setting them free, is it?" Souter then paused and added sheepishly, "Am I allowed to point out his huge gap in logic?"

Scalia also complained that there has been "sanctimonious criticism of America's death penalty" from people in other countries and that Monday's dissent "will be trumpteted abroad as vindication of these criticisms."

"These non-Americans who don't realize how much a good execution keeps the public sharp," Scalia continued, "they're the same ones who bitch and moan about our bringing democracy to Iraq. But to make a pie, you have to break a few eggs."

To which Souter replied, "You put eggs in your crust?"


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