Wowser! Weekend news stories galore of national or regional impact & import. The Washington Post has the lead story for the truism it offers.
- WaPo has this look at the waning use and support for the death penalty.
They forget what you knew, as soon as you shot those men out in Utah: Killing a man is easy.
The living with it after. That’s what’s hard.
That’s what maybe this country has learned: We are a society that kills certain prisoners. We kill more in some years, less in others. It comes and goes. But there is no perfect, painless, fair way to do it. It turns out there is no absolution for the living. It turns out the dead haunt us. It is a thought as disturbing as the bodies of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, the killers in Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” dying the old-fashioned way, swinging at the end of a rope in the middle of the Kansas night.
The images do not lie easy on us, not in our sleep, not in yours, and it seems they never will.
- NYT has a fantastic piece that appears to have run only in th e NJ local editions by the Hon. Peter G. Verniero, a lawyer, former justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court and former New Jersey Attorney General. “
As state attorney general, I supported the death penalty and worked to enforce it. Later, as a member of the New Jersey Supreme Court, I voted to affirm and overturn death sentences when legal standards required either result.. . .
cannot fathom the pain felt by the families of murder victims. I can only assume that their grief and sense of loss are perpetual. Understandably for some, a feeling of justice will result only from the execution of the persons responsible for such unspeakable crimes.
Still, as a practical matter, New Jersey’s death penalty exists merely on paper. Despite the law on the books, this state has never really embraced capital punishment. We should acknowledge that reality and replace the death penalty with a punishment that is real.
- The Austin American Statesman looks at this week’s oral arguments on “Texas Day” at the Supreme Court and the U-T law clinic that got those cases to the SCOTUS:
When the U.S. Supreme Court convenes Wednesday to hear oral arguments in 3 Texas death penalty cases, the audience will include about a dozen University of Texas law students who worked on the cases.
The students were part of last semester’s Capital Punishment Clinic, and two of their professors, Jordan Steiker and Rob Owen, will be arguing on behalf of the Texas inmates.
The Supreme Court accepted the death row cases in October, giving the students an unexpectedly intimate look at litigation at the highest levels of the law. Many visited clients on death row, researched legal issues and proofread briefs basically grunt work, but U.S. Supreme Court grunt work. . . .
“The clinic really treats them seriously as people who are going to be handling serious cases in a short time,” said Owen, who like Steiker is a nationally recognized expert on death penalty constitutional law.
“It does teach them, I think, that law in the courts is really different from the law in the lawbooks. It’s essential for people to figure out, if they want to be litigators, that much of what you need to know is not written down anywhere. You can only learn it by going to court,” Owen said. “It’s not always reassuring.”
- In Williamsport, Pennsylvania paper (yes, that is the small city where the Little League World Series is played), the Sun Gazette, notes this
Support for the death penalty is slipping, according to one survey, but a sampling of local people shows a wide divide in attitudes toward the treatment of people convicted of murder.
A recent poll conducted by the Center for Survey Research at Penn State University’s Harrisburg campus found support for capital punishment is not favored by a majority of Pennsylvanians.
The poll asked: “What do you think should be the penalty for persons convicted of murder?”
Its options included the death penalty, life in prison with no possibility of parole, life in prison with parole, don’t know, or refused.
Of those responding to the poll, 42.9 percent supported capital punishment, while 45.1 percent favored life without parole (35.5 percent) or life with parole possible (9.6 percent). The rest of the people polled were undecided or declined an answer.