Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens sharply condemned the country’s death penalty system in a speech Saturday in Chicago. Stevens used the speech to the American Bar Association to underscore the matter’s prominence at the court, noting evidence of “serious flaws,” reports the Associated Press.
His remarks also indicated dismay over the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a 75-year-old pragmatist who has been a key voter in affirmative action, abortion rights and the death penalty. The court has been closely divided in death row cases, with O’Connor often in the middle. President Bush’s choice to replace her, John Roberts, has a limited track record. Roberts, 50, showed little sympathy for prisoner appeals as a government lawyer in the Reagan administration, but later did free legal work for a death row inmate. Stevens, appointed in 1975 by Republican President Gerald Ford, has evolved into the Supreme Court’s most liberal member. At 85, he is the oldest justice but has given no hints that he will retire soon.