Thursday, December 08, 2005

 

Another Cog in the Machinery of Death

So things, apparently, aren't hard enough for abolitionists in America. The system, which has killed 1000 in the modern area, is just too soft on criminals. Don't worry, baseball fans, Samuel Alito is here to save us from the danger of not executing innocent or unfairly tried human beings.

Sandra Day O'Connor is hardly a liberal. Nominated by Ronald Reagan, she has consistently supported capital punishment. But O'Connor has occasionally ruled against extremely unfair practices. Not Alito, in an insightful piece in the LA Times, Goodwin Liu recently explored Judge Alito's record on the death penalty. In the ten cases regarding executions on which Alito has ruled, in all five cases that were not decided unanimously, Alito ruled in favor of execution. You can read about all of them in the previous link, but I have to focus on just one, a case regarding racial discrimination in the death penalty. In 2001, Alito ruled against James Riley (an African-American man) who claimed that his rights had been infringed upon because the D.A. had struck all three black potential jurors. Riley's case included the fact that in all three capital cases the same D.A. had tried the previous year, he had used strikes to eliminate all African-Americans from the jury pool. Now, common sense should dictate that there's a pattern here, but that's not enough for Alito who wrote, "Although only about 10% of the population is left-handed, left-handers have won five of the last six presidential elections. But does it follow that the voters cast their ballots based on whether a candidate was right- or left-handed?"

Can youbelievee this guy? He's comparing race, and the horrendous history of racial bias in our criminal justice system, to right and left-handedness! The analogy doesn't even make sense. When deciding between life and death, shouldn't we be absolutely certain that we are being fair? Shouldn't we be sure that facts, not underlying attitudes of prejudice, are making the decisions? The answer, from Alito, and current Justices Scalia and Thomas at least, is clear; No! Judges like Alito will continue to refuse to see bias unless the D.A. says aloud, "I want to exclude all blacks [although he'd probably have to use a more pejorative phrase for them to be sure it was discrimination]" Even then, it might not havedefinitelyy effected the outcome of the trial. I guess it's just coincidence as well that 80% of death row inmates were charged with the murder of a white person, even though over 50% of murder victims are people of color. It just happens that a quarter of all African-Americans on death row were tried in front of all white juries. These numbers may shock you and I, but not Alito. I mean, it happens that lefties are under-represented on juries too, does that mean that left-handed people are discriminated against at trial?
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