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November 27, 2005

Critical commentary on Alito's death penalty work

Berkeley law prof Goodwin Liu today has this commentary in the Los Angeles Times, which is highly critical of the work of Judge Sam Alito in capital cases during his tenure as a Third Circuit judge.  Here are the opening and closing paragraphs:

Although abortion rights have dominated the debate over the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court, there is another issue implicating the "culture of life" that has garnered fewer headlines: capital punishment.  The impending executions of three men in California, including the lethal injection of reformed ex-gang leader Stanley Tookie Williams scheduled for Dec. 13, are a sober reminder of the irrevocable stakes in this area of law.

Capital cases make up a substantial portion of the Supreme Court's docket each year.  From 2000 to 2005, the court decided only three cases involving abortion but more than three dozen cases involving the death penalty.  In this area, the Supreme Court often serves not only in its typical role of deciding unsettled questions of broadly applicable law but also as a court of last resort to correct errors and prevent injustice in individual cases....

Although O'Connor's approach to capital punishment has been solidly conservative, she has at times supplied a crucial vote in contentious cases in favor of greater care and fairness in the application of the death penalty.  Yet it is precisely in the most contentious cases that Alito has shown an unbroken pattern of excusing errors in capital proceedings and eroding norms of basic fairness.

At a time when America's commitment to due process of law is being closely scrutinized at home and abroad, Alito's record on capital punishment raises serious concerns.  It deserves careful attention from the Senate and the American people as a measure of his capacity to interpret the law in pursuit of impartial, humane and equal justice.

Along with extensive coverage of the death penalty at this archive, below are linked prior posts exploring Alito and the death penalty:

November 27, 2005 at 07:09 AM | Permalink

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