As we make laws and try to adjudicate justice, we often lose sight of the human faces affected.
We can no longer pretend that the scales of justice in America are fair and balanced.
Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s death penalty sentencing violates the Sixth Amendment. Tomorrow, the court will consider whether to hear a death-row petition based on the Eighth. The first is comparatively narrow in scope: Florida has to stop sending people to its rather bustling death row unless that decision is made by a real live jury. The second, however, could be quite sweeping.
The state killed Kelly Gissendaner despite the evidence of a changed life. This points to a desire for retribution rather than reformation.
It feels to me like evil is hovering over the prison in the form of a government ready to kill a woman who prayed with me when my father was dying of cancer. There isn't a thing I can do about it except pray this psalm and damn if we can't get it right.
I was trying to write a provocative article for a readership that includes many people who a) oppose the death penalty for faith-based reasons, and b) take for granted that replacing it with LWOP is a fairly straightforward good. But I should have done more to anticipate how others might see a one-sided article where I saw a narrowly focused one.
The death penalty is undergoing a welcome decline in the U.S. But the policy that's replacing it isn't much better.
Last week the Nebraska legislature abolished the state’s death penalty, overcoming the governor’s veto to do it. First Things editor Matthew Schmitz, writing in National Review, adds a salutary note of caution to the celebration that followed: viewing abolition as moral progress allows us to “overlook the countless cruelties of our criminal-justice system as we congratulate ourselves on the elimination of a relatively rare punishment.”