The United States Supreme Court has struck again -- this time overturning by a 5-4 decision, all statutes that apply the death sentence to 16- and 17 year old murderers.
As a former prosecutor I am convinced that from time to time juries find before them 16- or 17-year-old defendants who understand full well the vicious nature of their murders and deserve -- after receiving the full panoply of due process -- to be fried, gassed, hanged, shot, injected or otherwise sent promptly to hell.
Even if you are of a sympathetic nature and believe that the little 17-year-old darlings deserve to be rehabilitated, you might still find this Supreme Court opinion stomach turning for its sheer disdain of logic, public attitudes and American law.
But first: The crime, as described yesterday by Justice Kennedy in Roper v. Simmons, writing for the majority:
At the age of 17, when he was still a junior in high school, Christopher Simmons ... committed murder ... There is little doubt that Simmons was the instigator of the crime. Before its commission, Simmons said he wanted to murder someone. In chilling, callous terms he talked about his plan with his friends ... Simmons proposed to commit burglary and murder by breaking and entering, tying up a victim and throwing the victim off a bridge. Simmons assured his friends they could "get away with it" because they were minors.
A few hours later, he proceeded to do just that, breaking into a home, covering the victim's head in a towel, wrapping her up in duct tape and tying her hands and legs together with electrical wire. Then he drove her to a bridge and threw her off into the water, where helpless, she drowned.
The question before the Supreme Court was whether this presented a case of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment to our Constitution. No, the court was not concerned with whether being assaulted in your home, wrapped in a towel, duct tape and electrical wire, and thrown off a bridge was cruel and unusual punishment. That's OK. The Court is only concerned with whether it was cruel and unusual to execute the strapping 17-year-old murderer who did it.
The gist of the majority's analysis is that whether the crime is constitutionally "unusual" depends on whether "evolving standards of decency" have reached the point in our history when such punishment has been clearly rejected by society.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.