Justice Stevens Blasts Capital Punishment
The American Bar Association is having its annual meeting in Chicago. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens spoke to the Group Saturday, and was sharply critical of the death penalty:
Stevens stopped short of calling for an end to the death penalty, but he said there are many problems in the way it is used. Stevens said DNA evidence has shown "that a substantial number of death sentences have been imposed erroneously. . . . It indicates that there must be serious flaws in our administration of criminal justice," he said.
It is death penalty cases, not abortion cases, that dominate the caseload of the Supreme Court.
In their last term, which ended in June, justices overturned the death sentences of four inmates, ruled that states cannot put to death killers who were not at least 18 years old at the time of the crime and held that it is unconstitutional to force defendants to appear before juries in chains during a trial's penalty phase.
Stevens was also critical of the death-qualifying jury selection process, the admission of victim-impact evidence and the lack of competent counsel in death cases.
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