So now the U.S. Supreme Court is writing decisions based on what Our Betters in Europe think is best. That's what the Big Bench did on Tuesday when it issued a 5-4 decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, overturning the death penalty for crimes committed by minors.
Let me stipulate. The outcome -- an end to executions of those who committed crimes as minors -- isn't what bothers me here. There is an argument to be made that, as per the Eighth Amendment, it is "cruel and unusual" to execute those convicted of crimes committed when they were minors. Minors, as Kennedy put it, are "categorically less culpable than the average criminal."
But the court didn't limit its guidance to the U.S. Constitution. Kennedy wrote that the court can and should consider "the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty," including opposition among "leading members of the Western European community."
Be afraid, America. Be very afraid. European Union countries don't simply oppose capital punishment; they also oppose life without parole and mete out notoriously short sentences for heinous crimes. In recent years, a German court essentially sentenced a man who killed and ate another man -- the killer was so proud he videotaped everything -- to eight and a half years in prison. He is expected to walk free after five years.
The International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia found a Bosnian Serb colonel guilty of aiding and abetting the genocide that resulted in thousands of deaths. His sentence: 18 years.
Don't blame European juries. Judges made the above rulings, on a continent where juries get little respect.
If you're wondering who died and made Justice Kennedy -- or Western Europe -- king, consider that Kennedy also referred to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child that prohibited the execution of minors -- even though the United States failed to ratify that treaty. The definition of an activist judge could be a judge who calls on the government to adhere to a treaty it rejected.
Kennedy wasn't even on solid ground factually. "In sum," he wrote, "it is fair to say that the United States now stands alone in a world that has turned its face against the juvenile-death penalty."
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