It's a wonderful word, beautiful in its simplicity and straightforwardness.
It is one of the first words most children learn, because, hopefully, they hear it often enough from Mom and Dad.
No. An N and an O. No. It can be "No." or "No!" or even "NO!"
The meaning is crystal clear.
Unless, of course, you happen to be the State of Alabama.
Last night, as people who follow the death penalty are well aware, the U.S. Supreme intervened to stop a scheduled execution in Mississippi. (Mississippi...a much more complicated word than the word "No." But I digress.)
Anyway, every legal expert in the country who knows anything about the death penalty knows the significance of the Court's action. Let's pick up Linda Greenhouse, writing this page one, lead story for The New York Times:
Moments before a Mississippi prisoner was scheduled to die by lethal injection, the Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution on Tuesday evening and thus gave a nearly indisputable indication that a majority intends to block all executions until the court decides a lethal injection case from Kentucky next spring.
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.
So what does the Alabama Supreme Court do? Why, this very morning, they set a Dec. 6 execution date. We're not joking. In Alabama, "No" means "Yes."
Or perhaps "No" means "Why, of course!" or "We can't see any reason why not!"
More from Greenhouse at The New York Times:
In the application for a stay of execution, filed Monday afternoon, Mr. Berry’s lawyers acknowledged that the Supreme Court itself has been critical of last-minute requests from death-row inmates, “especially if the petitioner has been trying to manipulate the legal process.” But the lawyers urged the court to look beyond that issue and to consider “a balancing of the equities and hardships of the respective parties.”
In this instance, the lawyers said, Mississippi “will suffer no prejudice other than a delay if Mr. Berry’s execution is stayed,” while Mr. Berry “on the other hand, will suffer the risk of being put to death by an unconstitutional means.” They added, “It is clear that irreparable harm will result if no stay is granted.”
David P. Voisin, one of the defense lawyers, said the Supreme Court’s action was “a positive sign that as long as this issue is under consideration, the court is going to hold executions.”
Well. We've got one word for the State of Alabama.
It starts with an 'N' and it consists of two letters.