The above was a headline to a story in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.
I can’t wait for the day when two words would no longer appear in such a headline – “death-row”.
In a 2002 case, Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court held that executing intellectually disabled convicts violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments.
From my perspective, it’s cruel and unusual punishment to execute anyone, period.
The courts have not done a good job providing guidance on how to measure intellectual disability, and have allowed states to come up with their own approaches.
But I have a simple test, one that would bring consistency across all states and would avoid the need for lengthy court cases (the case noted in the headline has been going on since 1980).
The test is just one question – “Is the defendant a member of the human race?”
If the answer is yes, then the person is automatically exempt from death row.
Such an approach would enable us to get to the type of society Justice Ginsburg we should all be striving towards:
“To enforce the Constitution’s protection of human dignity, we look to the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,”
My simple one-question test would protect human dignity and would certainly be a sign of progress.
I’ve always thought that convicting someone to death for killing someone else made no sense. If the jury thinks that killing someone is such a heinous crime (and it certainly is) why would that jury then go ahead and make the decision to take someone else’s life? It seems quite inconsistent.
By this logic, it seems that if you get in a car accident, you should be allowed to drive your car into the other person’s to make up for the damage to your car. Doesn’t make sense, does it?
It also seems, from the little I’ve read, that the death penalty does little, if anything, to reduce crime.
Finally, keeping someone on death row can be quite expensive, so it seems like money could be saved if the death penalty were eliminated.
So three cheers to the Supreme Court for such a wise decision.
Now let’s just eliminate the death penalty (and life sentences while we are at it).
Doing so would make raise the level of decency of the human race, of which we are all part.
If you would like to read some facts about he death penalty, here is a useful site.