Judge Roberts on the Death Penalty

While much attention is paid to Judge John Roberts' position on Roe v. Wade and the right to privacy, there is another critical issue that he needs to be questioned on: his views towards capital punishment.

The Washington Post reports that at his 2003 confirmation hearing for his seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Sen. Russ Feingold had the following exchange with him:

Feingold asked Roberts whether he was "concerned that poor defendants may not receive adequate legal representation, especially at the trial level of a capital case."

Roberts said he did not know much about the situation, but that "it certainly can't be the case that in all cases they receive adequate representation." He added: "I have long been of the view that whether you're in favor of the death penalty or opposed to it the system would work a lot better to the extent that defendants have adequate representation from the beginning." Roberts said prolonged appeals based on claims of inadequate representation were a major reason "these cases drag out so long."

Then Feingold asked: "Do you think that the current system is fair or do you agree with an ever-increasing number of Americans that it risks executing the innocent?"

Roberts did not answer directly at first, noting that "one thing that is unfair" is that "it's not certain, it's not definite, and there doesn't seem to be any reasonable time limitation." The long delays undermine any deterrent effect the death penalty might have, he said.

Feingold pressed Roberts about "the fact that 100 people have been exonerated, who were already sentenced to death."

Roberts replied that "obviously the first reaction is that the system worked in exonerating them."

Then Feingold asked whether Roberts thought "we've gotten all the ones that are innocent on death row."

When "you're talking about capital punishment, it is the ultimate sanction, and sort of getting it right in most cases isn't good enough. I agree with that," Roberts said.

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    Re: Judge Roberts on the Death Penalty (none / 0) (#1)
    by MikeDitto on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:54 PM EST
    Roberts apparently played an important role in Romer v. Evans, doing some behind-the-scenes work on striking down Amendment 2. Hopefully that's a good sign...

    Re: Judge Roberts on the Death Penalty (none / 0) (#2)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:55 PM EST
    And this odd one supporting gay rights evidently fell through his memory cracks like his membership to the Federalist Society: dailykos

    Re: Judge Roberts on the Death Penalty (none / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:55 PM EST
    Michael Ditto and mine above are on the same topic. Next time I will check the links before I comment. Nice to see like minds at work!