Magazine article The Christian Century

Justice O'Connor Tells of Death-Penalty Concerns

Magazine article The Christian Century

Justice O'Connor Tells of Death-Penalty Concerns

Article excerpt

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor says that she has reservations about whether the nation's capital punishment laws are applied fairly. "If statistics are any indication, the system may well he allowing some innocent defendants to be executed," O'Connor told the Minnesota Women Lawyers group during a speech on July 2.

Last year, six people were released from death row after their exoneration, O'Connor pointed out, boosting to 90 the number of such cases that have occurred since 1973. Though increasing use of DNA testing may help rectify the problem, few states have created laws to handle DNA testing for people already convicted in capital punishment cases, O'Connor said.

O'Connor, who became the nation's first female Supreme Court justice in 1981, has been considered a conservative voice on capital punishment--the legal penalty consistently opposed by Catholic bishops and frequently criticized by mainline Protestant leaders. "O'Connor's recent remarks are significant because the Supreme Court is one of the main cogs in a death-penalty machine that is coming under increasing scrutiny across the political spectrum," wrote Joe Davidson, a National Public Radio commentator, in an op-ed piece July 9 in the Los Angeles Times. …

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