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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Connecticut Supreme Court Strikes Down Death Penalty

And Also: Jared Fogle and Ashley Madison is combined in this discussion regarding online privacy and safety. The first is a horrible matter that has a specific reaction since he's a celebrity spokesperson, someone seen as an innocent nerdish sort.  The latter resulted in some schadenfreude, especially when Mr. Duggar reportedly was on the list. But, in other contexts, some have argued adultery is a private matter, so it is a major concern. It underlines too the problems with "whistleblowers" who release a ton of information that very well should not be out there, even if at times they do it for a good cause in some fashion. 

State v. Santiago held the death penalty unconstitutional under Connecticut law, dealing with those on death row after the state itself ending prospective executions. Linda Greenhouse and others have had their say. The first link is to the website in part since articles on the ruling tend to only link to the majority opinion (or maybe the primary dissent) so we are denied such things as a concurring opinion referencing the "macabre muck of capital punishment litigation."

As Greenhouse notes, a state with a single execution in fifty years provides a certain theoretical flavor in these cases, blue or not blue state (various states with similar statistics are red states).  And, this also colors the whole issue of the death penalty being arbitrarily applied and something of an answer to families of victims (though there is no single position here, some victims trying and failing to stop the state from executing people) understandably angry at the ruling. If killing people for murder is necessary for justice, there has been quite a long period of injustice in the state.

The website also helpfully provides biographies of the justices and a couple are expected joins -- one was an appointment of the current governor who ran on ending the death penalty while another has a long history of things like the Peace Corps and other liberal causes. One was a Republican nominee and former army official.  The author:
Justice Palmer was an associate with the Hartford law firm of Shipman & Goodwin from 1978 to 1980. Thereafter, he served as an Assistant United States Attorney for Connecticut from 1980 to 1982 and from 1987 to 1990, and held a number of positions in that office, including Chief of the Criminal Division and Deputy United States Attorney. From 1984 to 1986, he practiced privately with the firm of Chatigny and Palmer. In 1991, Justice Palmer was appointed to the position of United State’s Attorney for Connecticut and from 1991 to 1993, he was the Chief State’s Attorney for Connecticut. On March 17, 1993, he was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
A federal attorney in the Reagan and Bush Administrations is not the immediate person you'd think would write the majority opinion.  But, it also is not shocking, since opposition to the death penalty comes from many quarters.  And, those who support the death penalty or at least its constitutionality comes from various quarters too.  After all, though his former Attorney General personally opposed the death penalty and the Administration itself never carried one out, the POTUS himself continues to support it for some crimes.  This includes more than what the USSC itself recently held as just at least as applied to rape of children.

I wish not to go over old ground here but one thing that is shown in the coverage and responses (including by someone commenting at the blog linked) are the victims, including their opinion of the governor. One issue there is that the governor expressed his regret at their pain, which is the sort of comment that is a no win -- if you don't say it, you are bad and if you do, you are sneered at as well.  See also, President Bush having sympathy for the families of people who died in Iraq. And, again, sometimes courts strike down punishments (though here the people will stay in prison, which is how it went for each murderer except one since 1960) and upset victims.

Anyway, a lot of verbiage to do basically what was done for longer than I have been alive -- not execute people. But, it does matter, for the one or more on death row who definitely won't be executed (though doubtful some other way would have been found not to do that) and the arguments made. And, it is not set in stone.  A later legislature can change the law and the people can elect people who choose judges more likely to vote like the dissent. Besides, the debate is one that will continue as it has for ages.

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