Death-penalty symposium: The court keeps treating a fatally diseased death penalty
June 27, 2017

“As Justice Stephen Breyer forecasted two terms ago in Glossip v. Gross, the Supreme Court has continued its project of “patch[ing] up the death penalty’s legal wounds one at a time.” This term, it granted relief in three death-penalty cases, two from the nation’s leading executioner, Texas, and one from the leader in death-row prisoners per capita, Alabama. And it denied relief in a third Texas case (Davila v. Davis). As these cases show, the states’ applications of the death penalty have exposed individuals to execution who should have been protected because of their intellectual disability (Moore v. Texas), who were denied access to adequate tools of the defense (McWilliams v. Dunn), and whose verdicts were infected by racial prejudice (Buck v. Davis). The decisions granting relief are to be celebrated, but they address only the symptoms, not the underlying problem, recognized more than 40 years ago in Furman v. Georgia: Administration of the death penalty is inescapably arbitrary.”

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