Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A stirring dissent in Connecticut

A member of Connecticut's Supreme Court issued this impassioned dissent regarding the scheduled execution of Michael Ross:

In most ordinary litigation, civil or criminal, a party's decision to
accept or to stipulate to a certain result either simplifies greatly or
resolves finally the proceedings. The defendant, Michael Ross, is,
however, no ordinary defendant, and this is no ordinary case.

This case illustrates, however, the sheer irrationality of the capital
punishment system because this defendant's election to forgo further
appeals or collateral relief, a decision that in any other context would
lend some economy to the proceedings, has in fact spawned seemingly
endless litigation over his fate.

I do not dispute the need for an abundance of caution given the tremendous
stakes of this case; indeed, after the execution has taken place, no court
will have the option of reconsideration. These proceedings have, however,
been cruel and traumatic for the victims' families and a significant part
of the punishment for the defendant himself, and also have come at great
financial cost for all parties involved, as well as the courts. And yet,
at the end of the day, the question remains: After the execution, what
will the state of Connecticut have gained from all of this? The answer
seems to be that, minimally, the state has secured the proverbial pound of
flesh for the crimes of this one outrageously cruel man. But now, what is
to be? Has our thirst for this ultimate penalty now been slaked, or do we,
the people of Connecticut, continue down this increasingly lonesome road?

I opened this opinion by mentioning that my opposition to the death
penalty has often been set forth in the Connecticut Reports. I close with
my belief that the totality of the costs that are attendant to capital
punishment vastly outweigh its marginal benefits.

Hopefully, the death penalty jurisprudence reported in those volumes soon
will become nothing more than legal artifacts of interest and import not
to the active bench and bar, but only to historians. Until such time,
however, I respectfully dissent.

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