One Federal Judge's Legal Quest Against the Death Penalty

If you only have time for one article today, please read the New York Times in-depth profile of Judge Jed Rakoff, the federal judge in the Southern District of New York, who believes the death penalty violates due process because prisoners cannot pursue innocence claims after they are dead.

In 2002, Judge Rakoff became the first federal judge to declare the death penalty unconstitutional on due process grounds, because our system is so fallible, but he was reversed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

The article offers a rare opportunity to hear Judge Rakoff speak about his views and the issue:

In more than six hours of interviews, he offered a relatively rare and candid look at the private thinking of a federal judge taking on one of the most prominent and divisive legal issues of the day.

And among the things Judge Rakoff disclosed was that he himself had suffered the kind of devastating personal loss that many victims often accuse judges in death penalty cases of being insensitive to: the grisly murder of his older brother.

We need more federal Judges like Judge Rakoff. Instead, we are saddled with those George Bush is nominating. This is one of the more unfortunate consequences of the 2004 election.

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    "God's precious gift of life must be protected in law and nurtured in love." - John Ashcroft

    While I oppose the death penalty, I don't think the proper way to abolish it is by judicial activism.

    While I oppose the death penalty, there's no way it's unconstitutional. The fifth amendment makes it clear that people can't be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. The converse must be true as well. Give me a ballot, I'll vote to end it. Want to amend the constitution to make it illegal? Fine. A tortured reading of the constitution, though, would be worse than leaving it in place.