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October 4, 2005

Strong dissenting words against the death penalty

Thanks to this post at How Appealing, I see Sixth Circuit Judge Boyce F. Martin, Jr. today in Moore v. Parker, No. 03-6105 (6th Cir. Oct. 4, 2005) (available here) had a number of choice and potent words about the death penalty in a dissent from a ruling rejecting a capital defendant's habeas corpus challenge.   Here is a taste:

I have been a judge on this Court for more than twenty-five years. In that time I have seen many death penalty cases and I have applied the law as instructed by the Supreme Court and I will continue to do so for as long as I remain on this Court. This my oath requires. After all these years, however, only one conclusion is possible: the death penalty in this country is arbitrary, biased, and so fundamentally flawed at its very core that it is beyond repair....

As noted above, while the system suffers from many flaws, much of the arbitrary imposition of the death penalty stems from the exceedingly distressing fact that during all my years on the bench, the quality of lawyering that capital defendants receive has not substantially improved. In many cases it has deteriorated. In fact, one of the most clear examples of the arbitrariness of the death penalty is the common knowledge that those defendants with decent lawyers rarely get sentenced to death. Death has more to do with extra-judicial factors like race and socio-economic status than with whether death is deserved. A system, whose basic justification is the interest in retribution and general deterrence, is not served when guided by such irrelevant factors. Nor should a system of life and death hinge on the proficiency of counsel.

October 4, 2005 at 11:17 AM | Permalink


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» Damning the Death Penalty from Law Dork
Professor Berman notes a scathing indictment of the death penalty -- from a dissenting opinion in the Sixth Circuit. Judge Boyce Martin Jr. wrote in part: "[T]he death penalty in this country is arbitrary, biased, and so fundamentally flawed at... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 4, 2005 7:57:34 PM


I am an under-grad student and also an Illinois Parole Agent.

Posted by: errica weatherspoon | Dec 5, 2005 2:18:57 PM

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