Death Penalty

Stevens Opposes 'Pointless' Death Penalty

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For 30 years Justice John Paul Stevens has been a key vote upholding the death penalty. But now he has declared his is in opposition to capital punishment and that he thinks it’s unconstitutional, the Associated Press reports.

“I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty represents ‘the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes. A penalty with such negligible returns to the state (is) patently excessive and cruel and unusual punishment violative of the Eighth Amendment,’” he said in his concurring opinion rejecting a challenge to lethal injections in Kentucky.

Despite his stated opposition, Stevens said he will respect the court precedents in favor of capital punishment. That explains why he concurred in the result, voting against the death row inmates in Kentucky.

The AP notes that Stevens’ comments “are reminiscent of the public conversion of Harry Blackmun” when months before his 1994 retirement, he opposed the death penalty in all circumstances.

“The death-penalty experiment has failed. I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death,” Blackmun wrote.

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