Sotomayor Refused To Strike Down Death Penalty


As a federal trial judge more than a decade ago, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor rejected the same kind of statistical argument against capital punishment that she had made years earlier as a lawyer, saying it was not sufficient to prove discrimination, the New York Times reports. The newspaper examined in detail a 1998 case in which a drug kingpin and his bodyguard, both black, faced the first death penalty trial in Manhattan in several decades. Their attorneys argued that the practice of capital punishment was racist.

“We gave her enough ammunition that she could have struck down the death penalty,” recalled defense lawyer David Ruhnke. “Whether it would have stood up in the U.S. Supreme Court, who knows? But we gave her enough room to do it – had she wanted to reach out and do it – and she didn't.” Sotomayor never ruled on the merits of the death penalty; her remarks made clear that she was unlikely to find it unconstitutional. Some two years into the case, she was elevated to the appellate bench, and the case was handed to another judge, who declined to strike down the law. Both defendants pleaded guilty and avoided execution..

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