Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Supreme Court Is Wrong: One Man's Opinion

Disclaimer: I am not a constitutional scholar or a lawyer, the following is strictly the opinion of an American citizen.

Friends our government is broken, one of its parts is out of whack with its purpose. No, not Executive branch or even the Legislative branch, so step off liberals because you might hurt yourselves wrapping your heads around the concept of activist judges. I speak of the 9 black-robed justices of the United States Supreme Court who with today’s ruling on the juvenile death penalty have proven themselves not to be interpreters of the law but common activists who make up the rules as they go along.

Now don’t get wrong, I am not a blind advocate of putting children to death in fact I am very much in favor of the case by case review of any case that could lead to the execution of a juvenile. The only difference between my view on the case and what the Supreme Court decided today is that I don’t believe that the Supreme Court should have even heard the case. At its core the case is one to be decided by each state and not one handed down from on high by a branch of the federal government.

The Supreme Court in it’s 5 to 4, 87 page decision sighted 3 main reasons for ruling against the death penalty for juveniles, 1) society’s “evolving standard of decency” deems that the execution of a juvenile is unconstitutional and an example of “cruel and unusual” punishment, 2) since most states already do not execute minors, then a national consensus exists, 3) It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime.

Those sound like reasonable arguments against the execution of juveniles but consider this, the justices that sit on the Supreme Court are nothing more then a group of lawyers charged with the interpretation of the Constitution. There are not the moral monitors of this country nor should they defer a decision of American law to the whims of international opinion. In the written judgment, Justice Kennedy stressed that there was a national and international trend to eliminate the death penalty for juveniles.

With all due respect to Justice Kennedy but that is quite a load of horsesh*t. Apparently I am not so far off in my opinion because in his dissent Justice Scalia stated the following: “The court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our nation's moral standards -- and in the course of discharging that awesome responsibility purports to take guidance from the views of foreign courts and legislatures, and because I do not believe that the meaning of our . . . Constitution should be determined by the subjective views of five members of this court and like-minded foreigners, I dissent” Justices Rehnquist and Thomas joined with Justice Scalia in dissent while Justice O’Conner also dissented but offered her own opinion (page 43) on the ruling.

Like I said earlier I am not in favor of the wholesale execution of minors but rather a case by case review but whatever states decide in favor of juvenile execution. Now before you point out that people on death row usually cost more then people sentenced to life, that another point so let’s stay on topic. Let me give you four names of juveniles that certainly deserve death but will not face a life behind bars at taxpayer expense. The first two examples are already dead since they took the easy way out and killed themselves at the conclusion of their crimes, but the third most likely would have faced the death penalty in his pending cases and the fourth will now serve out a life sentence as a result of yesterday’s ruling.

Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, John Lee Malvo, and Christopher Simmons.

Now if Harris and Klebold had lived, many would have argued that they deserved the death penalty and they would have been right. Harris has been the subject of many in the field of psychoanalysis and it’s pretty much accepted that he was a sociopath. Either way it could be argued that while both Harris and Klebold were under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes they both were completely aware of the consequences of their actions and thus would be eligible for the death penalty. Under the ruling by the Supreme Court the state of Colorado would not be able to make such a review.

John Lee Malvo would have faced the death penalty in Virginia, Alabama and Louisiana but now can look forward to multiple life sentences. Perhaps Victoria Snider said it best when she said, “I truly believe Malvo knew right from wrong. He chose his path." The sister of James “Sonny” Buchanan also stated that she felt the issues of whether someone as young as Malvo should be put to death was best left to a jury. Victoria, I am sorry for the loss of your brother and now your loss of justice at the hands of an out of control Supreme Court.

The last in our infamous lineup of underage killers is the very person whose case was decided today, Christopher Simmons. It seems that while planning his crime he often bragged to friends about how he would get off because of his age. Seems like a pretty clear indication that he not only knew right from wrong but at his “young” age also understood how to “work” the system.

The Supreme Court was wrong to rule that the juvenile death penalty is “cruel and usual” punishment. There are clearly examples of minors that not only know right from wrong but understand the consequences of their actions. The issue of juvenile executions is clearly a sensitive one that merits much thought and deliberation and the states should have the ability to do a case by case review of their own laws without worrying about how another state or another country is handling the same issue. The ruling today is yet another by an activist court and the saddest part is that it came from the Supreme Court.

Cross-posted at The Wide Awakes

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