Friday, January 11, 2008
Capital Punishment and the Constitution
[Content Disclosure: 0% Poker, 12% Politics, 13% Supreme Court, 9% Strict Constructionism, 19% Pure Rant, 29% other]
I was listening to NPR the other day in the car. I am not, like some of my friends, addicted to National Public Radio. I do, however, listen to it in the car rather than the noize on most other stations. So here was this NPR "news" piece covering a hearing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The case involved whether or not the current methods of lethal injection to administer justice in capital punishment cases was cruel and inhuman. Why? Well because according to some, who have studied this; the current three drug cocktail may not be as painless as the single drug administration of a strong barbiturate.
Now there was some political silliness and political stupidity on both sides of the case but what I was struck by was the questioning by the various Justices of the court. One in particular caught my attention as the very essence of legal system, as practiced today, in the United States. The attorney advocate for changing the lethal injection to a single drug had made the case that this procedure would insure a painless death; he had further made the point, supported by medical testimony, that the current three drug cocktail could leave some patients paralyzed but able to feel their slow, agonizing death by suffocation.
A Justice asked the attorney where in the Constitution he found the stipulation that the death penalty must be administered in the least painful manner possible.
Just sit with that a moment.
There in the allegedly hallowed halls of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, a member of that Court actually wanted to know, if the revered Founding Fathers, gathered to write the Constitution of the newly freed country of the United States of America; whether these delegates had considered that 220+ years in the future that perhaps their descendants would need guidance in order to be civilized enough to kill a shackled person in the most humane manner available.
But, of course, that is not what the esteemed Justice meant. What he meant was that he only is able to make judicial rulings based on what is actually written in the Constitution. Since the delegates never addressed the actually manner of murder by which their descendants would put people to death than, in fact, beheading them as is done in many countries around the world would be perfectly constitutional according to this Justice.
Now once again--who are the Barbarians? and why do they wear those black robes?