In Retirement, Justice Stevens Becomes Death Penalty Opponent


Former Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired from the Supreme Court in June after turning 90, has come out swinging in the past few days against the death penalty, notes Time. In an appearance on TV’s “60 Minutes” and in a New York Review of Books essay, Stevens argues that capital punishment as it is now administered in the U.S. is hopelessly flawed – and unconstitutional. He makes a compelling case.

Stevens, appointed by a Republican President, Gerald Ford, has not always opposed capital punishment. In 1976, shortly after he joined the court, he provided a key vote in a case that helped end a de facto death-penalty moratorium that had been in place since 1972. In 2008, Stevens famously changed his mind. In a case challenging Kentucky’s method of lethal injection, he said in a separate opinion that the court’s decision in 1976 that capital punishment is constitutional was based on a belief that it would be applied in a way that would not be discriminatory, arbitrary, excessive or racially discriminatory. After three decades on the court, it had become clear to him that those conditions were not being met.

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