Breyer renews call to review constitutionality of death penalty
Justice Stephen G. Breyer has used an Alabama capital case to renew his call to examine the constitutionality of the death penalty.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant a stay of execution for the inmate, Christopher Eugene Brooks, drawing a dissent (PDF) from Breyer, report BuzzFeed News, the Montgomery Advertiser and Al.com. Brooks was executed Thursday evening.
Breyer said Alabama allows jurors to issue an “advisory verdict” in death penalty cases using a system that is much like the death penalty scheme struck down on Jan. 12 in Hurst v. Florida.
“The unfairness inherent in treating this case differently from others which used similarly unconstitutional procedures only underscores the need to reconsider the validity of capital punishment under the Eighth Amendment,” Breyer wrote.
In a concurrence to the cert denial, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg also pointed to possible problems with Alabama’s capital sentencing scheme, but said they believed procedural obstacles would have prevented the court from granting relief.
Breyer dissented a day before the U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to consider a cert petition raising the Eighth Amendment issue in the case of Shonda Walter, BuzzFeed News reports.
“The death penalty has outlived any conceivable use,” Walter’s cert petition asserts. “It is imperfect in application, haphazard in result, and of negligible utility.”
If the court is considering taking up the case, it probably won’t act before its next conference on Feb. 19, BuzzFeed reports. At that time, a Louisiana case also raising the constitutional issue will likely be before the court.