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October 31, 2007

Is an execution moratorium scary or sacred or silly or sound?

This piece by Linda Greenhouse at the New York Times notes the import of the Supreme Court's granting of an execution stay in Mississippi last night, calling the stay a "nearly indisputable indication that a majority intends to block all executions until the court decides a lethal injection case from Kentucky next spring."  Here's more:

Even without a written opinion, the Supreme Court’s action on Tuesday night clarified a situation that had become increasingly confusing as state courts and the lower federal courts, without further guidance from the justices, wrestled with claims from a growing number of death-row inmates that their imminent executions should be delayed.  State and lower federal courts are likely to interpret the Supreme Court’s action as a signal that they should postpone executions in their jurisdictions. As a result, the justices will probably not have to consider any more last-minute applications from inmates while the de facto moratorium is in effect.

Especially given that today is a day for spooky festivities — maybe I will dress up as a doctor who refuses to participate in a lethal injection — perhaps readers will share their thoughts about what to make of the suspended state of the death penalty.  Scary, sacred, silly or sound?

Some related posts:

October 31, 2007 at 08:54 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Of the choices, I'll go with "silly," though an execution moratorium on other grounds - e.g., application bias or evidenciary biases that lead to wrongful convictions - I wouldn't consider "silly" at all. On this, though, from the perspective of protecting the constitutional rights of the condemned, why would I care what is the method of death (so long as not prolonged and torturous) if the state plans to extinguish my life?

That argument strikes me as the same sort of self-important pedantry from the condemned man's killers that causes them to dab the injection spot with alcohol before inserting the needle. Who cares, if you're going to kill the SOB? It's not like he'll be around to file a complaint.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Oct 31, 2007 12:16:40 PM

This seems a strange question for you to be asking, Professor Berman, as I thought your posts appear to savor taking credit for creating the "informal moratorium)" and were intended to break what you deem an unjustified impasse.

I doubt the dilemma doctors face seems particularly funny to them . . . not that your comment is out of line with the "spirit" of the day, so to speak, but how bizarre to contemplate the fact that in some states (Missouri, for example) prisoners are isolated just before the state kills them in a cell within the prison "hospital". . . Whatever your view on the propriety of capital punishment, I don't think you can deny this is a ghoulish use for a "hospital" . . . whether or not you believe the condemned deserves it. This is a question about how WE act, not the illegal killers we put to death.

Posted by: DYN | Oct 31, 2007 12:41:31 PM

DYN: The scariest part of your post is the suggestion that a blogger could "create" or to "break" an execution moratorium.

I have always seen my role on this blog as scholarly gadfly, trying to make sure accurate information is available and trying also to ensure balanced reflection on this information.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 31, 2007 1:34:32 PM

And you do an excellent job, Prof.

Posted by: Clerk | Oct 31, 2007 2:11:15 PM

Sorry, Professor B: I thought I had posted an immediate correction for the omission in my original observation to clarify that what I had meant to write was "I thought your posts appear to savor taking credit for creating the "informal moratorium" HEADLINE and were intended to break what you deem an unjustified impasse."

I, too, believe your blog does an excellent job in many fine respects. My point was that it seems a bit like crocodile tears to be wonder whether the slogan that originated here is a silly phenomenon.

Posted by: DYN | Oct 31, 2007 2:42:54 PM

DYN: thanks for the clarification, though I do not care about views on the slogan but the event itself. I have been using the "moratorium" label because it seems to best capture what's going on with the death penalty. And I care far less about reactions to the label than I care about reactions to what's going on.

Of course, as I noted in one recent posts, I am somewhat surprised by the lack of reaction --- at least among law prof bloggers --- that we are now at the start of what may be the longest actual hiatus in the death penalty in nearly 3 decades.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 31, 2007 3:16:13 PM

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