Thursday, July 06, 2006

On the Charge of Contempt of Court I Plead Innocent As Charged

Your (another e-mailer) charge that I am damaging the Supreme Court with the recent series of denunciations is flattering and if that was possible it could only encourage me. The RATS court is destroying democracy, decency and the very basis on which life is sustained. Not being a DC area journalist or lawyer, I don't have to pretend that they aren't contemptible.

To take another in a series of evil and absurd rulings including the two new injustices there is the Kansas death case. The majority held that death had the upper hand when a jury wasn't exactly sure that the facts warranted the death penalty. The majority played their hand by having Thomas get off his bench to write one of his rare opinions, a sure sign that they wanted to display contempt for reason. I suppose it was only out of a sense of gravitas that Thomas didn't write "All we are saying, don't give life a chance," and go back to the leisure activity of his choice. Death doesn't require evidence beyond a doubt anymore, though product liability undoubtedly will soon.

In case you didn't hear, the Kansas law that was being reviewed holds that a jury is required to impose the death sentence if they find that the facts for a life sentence and the death penalty balance each other out. It makes the Kansas legislature an extra juror with a guaranteed vote for death.

As the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette pointed out the other day Scalia, in an open and gratuitous slap at Justice Souter* for having the nerve to write a well- reasoned dissenting opinion, claimed that in the past thirty years there has never been a proven case of an innocent person being put to death by the state.

While you doubt that a mountain of conclusive evidence could overcome Scalia's belief in his infallibility, his claim a sham. The ever flexible standards of "proof" required by the Republican majority of recent courts all depend on the desired outcome of the members of the court. They reliably favor the rich and well connected and are insurmountable by the side they don't want to win. If a particular political or economic end is favored the Republican majority generally will find a standard of proof or other legal excuse to do what they want.

The Journal Gazette editorial points to the case of Carlos De Luna executed in Texas in 1989. The evidence in that case pretty well proves that another man named Carlos Hernandez committed the murder, many of his relatives and friends have said that he repeatedly bragged that he killed the victim and that De Luna paid the price for his crime. The editorial points out that police and people in the prosecutor's office knew about evidence that Hernandez was the murderer but that they chose to kill a man on the basis of shaky evidence in order to get the death penalty for De Luna. You wonder how many other cases like this there are and need to ask why the courts are so uninterested in finding out whether they are killing innocent people. Wouldn't you want to make sure you weren't?

Don't hold your breath for Scalia to make an honest man of himself by honestly reviewing the evidence and correcting his lie as needed. What is it called if a judge lies in an opinion? Perjury? There should be a word for it.

* In full disclosure and out of my respect for you who read this I have to confess a past error. When he was nominated I once described Souter as a "willing tool of the New Hampshire Republican establishment,". My defense is that is an entirely accurate opinion of his career up till then. I am not always happy with Justice Souter on the bench but he has at least earned the title, which I hope you will never notice me using for any of the RATS.

Up here in Soviet Canuckistan, they're reviewing the case of Stephen Truscott, a man who went to jail at the age of fifteen for the alleged rape and murder of a classmate of his. He was supposed to be executed, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He's been released, but is seeking a re-evaluation of the evidence, on the grounds that he maintains his innocence. It's looking as though he really didn't commit the crime, too.

That alone would be enough to convince me of the ethical wrongness of executions, if I weren't already convinced.
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