Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Calls For AGW Skeptics To Be Silenced (Or Worse) In The USA Are Unconstitutional

US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr writing his dissenting opinion in November 1919 (Abrams v. United States):

Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition….

But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe […] that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas—that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market….

That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment…. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.

Justice Holmes’s and the whole of the USA’s journey towards contemporary interpretation of the meaning of free speech in America is the subject of “Justice Holmes and the ‘Splendid Prisoner’” by Anthony Lewis, published in The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 11 · July 2, 2009.

US Supreme Court’s Double Blow Against Death Penalty

With a 5-to-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled yesterday June 25 against the capital punishment of child rapists.

Of course those rapists better spend a few decades in prison. But it is quite momentuous finally to hear affirmed in the USA the principle that the death penalty cannot be applied to crimes where victims have not died.

One may start wondering if, according to the Supreme Court, capital punishment is “just” a “State revenge”, a death to compensate another death. But we can leave that to a more appropriate time.: because the other important achievement in the majority’s opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy:

When the law punishes by death, it risks its own sudden descent into brutality, transgressing the constitutional commitment to decency and restraint

Justice Kennedy has thus confirmed what already known to those fighting for the abolition of the death penalty: the very application of capital punishment means (running the risk of) brutalizing the entire legal system of the whole nation, including the professional executioners, the prosecutors arguing to terminate a human being’s life, and the judges and juries deciding to end that life.

Three “hoorays” for Justice Kennedy.

The Wrong Way of Discussing About Death Penalty in the USA

The US Supreme Court has started discussing whether current 3-drug death penalty procedures in Kentucky can be defined as “cruel and unusual punishment” and thereby declared uncostitutional (regarding the Eigth Amendment).

Actually, and quite strangely, the above is not strictly true. What the Court is being asked to deliberate on, is the proposal by two death row inmates in Kentucky to be killed with a single drug, rather than three.

In a supremely ironical situation, their lawyer is trying to argue something like “one drug good, three drugs bad”.

Some of the justices have problems with the whole reasoning, and rightly so: what would be there to avoid in the future a repeat of the same discussion, with somebody arguing that the “one drug” procedure is unconstitutional too?

Why not stick to what is relatively well known (three-drug) since there is no evidence one-drug will be less cruel and/or less unusual?

IMNSHO the underlying problem is that the entire setup is wrong.

The Constitution says “[…] cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted“. It does not refer to “the least cruel” and/or “the least unusual” penalties.

If the 3-drug procedure is cruel/unusual, then it is ipso facto wrong to use: even if it is the least cruel/unusual way anybody has thought of at the moment.

The burden of coming up with a constitutional (non-cruel, non-unusual) way of applying the Death Penalty should be with the people advocating for it.

Everything else, makes very little sense indeed.

UPDATE: A shortened version of the above is published in the Letters section of the International Herald Tribune (newspaper date: January 10, 2008).