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Monday, August 08, 2005

The great Justice Stevens explains how the death penalty is making a mockery of our judicial system. I had to point out this article for three reasons.

One, Stevens points out how the death penalty is a tool of the powerful imposed upon the weak. Defendants who get the death penalty are often denied proper legal representation. He doesn't say it outright here, but we know that black Americans bear a disproportionate burden of being poor and being executed.

Two, Stevens shows how this barbaric process undermines our legal system by turning trials into a farce. People opposed to the death penalty can be excluded from juries based upon this fact; the result is that a defendant is no longer exposed to a jury of his "peers", but rather to a group of people that skews heavily rightward. Statements from victim's families have nothing to do with the legal issues of the case, yet the law allows them to be read in court. The result is that people's lives are literally being taken away based upon emotion, not the rule of law. Stevens also points out how elected trial judges may favor the death penalty so as to please a constituency eager for blood, regardless of whether or not the death penalty is warranted.

Third, we all need to remember this great man. Stevens is 85 years old and the most liberal member of the Supreme Court. Although he is in good health, it is not outside the realm of possibility that he will die before Bush's term expires. Should President Bush replace Stevens with a Scalia style conservative, the Supreme Court will become an enormously powerful tool of Corporate Republican wishes. We should all keep our fingers crossed and knock on wood that Stevens survives to see another Democratic president.

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