Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Justice Blackmun

Today's post will be be brief because, honestly, you've heard all these arguments before if you've been following my blog. Yes, I am Miss First Amendment Absolutist, and hey, I'm proud of it. Lets just get right to the heart of the matter, shall we?

The death penalty is not unconstitutional.

Now, before getting your civil liberties feathers in a ruffle, think about what that sentence means. Or more importantly, what it doesn't mean.

It doesn't mean that the death penalty is morally right.

It doesn't mean that the death penalty can't be legislated against.

It doesn't mean that the death penalty should be used.

It just means that it is not unconstitutional.

But what does that mean exactly? When I say the death penalty is not unconstitutional, what I really mean is that the death penalty can't be declared a violation of the 8th Amendment's “cruel and unusual punishment” clause. Unless the method of execution causes pain or prolonged suffering, it is not cruel. Because the death penalty has a large history in our country, it is not unusual. Does that mean I think we should have the death penalty? No. I just think the place to decide whether or not the death penalty is cruel and unusual is in Congress, not in the courts.

I hate the death penalty. I think it is sick, and uncivilized, and unnecessary, and beneath us as a country that supposedly values the individual and his/her rights. But that doesn't mean the Court should be the only vehicle for social change. In fact, it shouldn't be one. The duty of the Supreme Court is to uphold the words of the Constitution, not to try to make America a more moral place. As Justice Blackmun put it, “we should not allow our personal preferences... to guide our judicial decision in cases such as these” even if we feel “distaste, antipathy, and, indeed, abhorrence, for the death penalty.” That is for our elected representatives in Congress to do.

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