Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Death Takes a Holiday: But the Question Is Whether Executions Will Take a Permanent Vacation in the United States

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Death Takes a Holiday: But the Question Is Whether Executions Will Take a Permanent Vacation in the United States

Article excerpt

SOMETHING DIDN'T HAPPEN IN OCTOBER THAT YOU may not have noticed not happening. For the first time in three years, no one in the United States was executed by the state. Confronted by mounting evidence that "improvements" in the process of state-administered homicide may not be as merciful to the condemned as advertised, the U.S. Supreme Court gave notice to America's judiciary that it intended to review the process.

With defense challenges to lethal injection procedures piling up in courtrooms around the nation, the Supreme Court had little choice but to step in on death while it seeks to clarify America's juridical death dealing. All the same, "I will not execute anybody" does make a nice national resolution for the New Year. The court is likely to hand down its decision sometime this spring.

Twenty states and the federal government officially have halted any further executions for the time being. Other states are likely to follow suit, even those that have shown enthusiasm for executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Twelve states and the District of Columbia already do not permit the death penalty at all. New Jersey and Illinois have declared moratoriums on capital punishment, and a 2004 New York Supreme Court decision struck down the death penalty in that state.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The last time the death penalty was shut down across the nation was 1972, when the Furman Decision objected to the period's capricious and arbitrary enforcement of capital punishment. Today with just Texas, Virginia, and Oklahoma responsible for almost half of all executions since reinstatement (the Lone Star State leads with 403 executions), it's hard to argue the capriciousness problem has been resolved. But the current threat to capital punishment is based more on procedural than constitutional grounds, suggesting that the most likely outcome of the current court's deliberation is a new and revised process for administering lethal injections.

That's unfortunate because the court-ordered timeout on the death penalty comes at a time when the viability of capital punishment in the United States has entered a period of great flux and uncertainty. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.