U.S. Supreme Court

Dershowitz Challenges Scalia to Debate on Death Penalty & Catholic Doctrine


A famous civil rights lawyer and Harvard Law School professor is trying to hold Justice Antonin Scalia’s feet to the fire concerning a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday. Dissenting, Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas say factual innocence isn’t necessarily a basis for a constitutional appeal to avoid execution in a death penalty case.

Under this “truly outrageous” view, the nation’s highest court seemingly might turn a deaf ear to a convicted murder defendant who appeared before the justices with his wife, alive and well, beside him, writes Alan Dershowitz in a blog post on the Daily Beast.

And, he contends, such a result also violates the Catholic doctrine that Scalia claimed, in a May 2002 commentary in First Things, that he would follow in his work on the Supreme Court, resigning his seat on the bench, if need be, to avoid any conflict that could not otherwise be resolved between his religious and judicial duties.

So, writes Dershowitz, “I hereby challenge Justice Scalia to a debate on whether Catholic doctrine permits the execution of a factually innocent person who has been tried, without constitutional flaw, but whose innocence is clearly established by new and indisputable evidence.”

The stakes are high, the law prof contends, because if Scalia loses the debate he will, according to his previous commentary, either have to change his views as a justice or step down from the bench.

Scalia, so far, has declined to comment, according to Above the Law.

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