“Justice Breyer final (and actual) concern is with the death penalty itself. As I have elsewhere explained, it is clear that the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty. The only thing “cruel and unusual” in this case was petitioner’s brutal murder of three innocent victims.”
—Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, rebutting the arguments of Justice Breyer, a long-time opponent of capital punishment regarding the denial of certiorari in a death-penalty case, Reynolds v. Florida.
Justice Breyer’s statement reiterated themes he has echoed before in death penalty cases:
- “Lengthy delays—made inevitable by the Constitution’s procedural protections for defendants facing execution—deepen the cruelty of the death penalty and undermine its penological rationale”;
- Jurors (in this or other cases in which the Court has recently denied review) might not have had sufficient information to “have made a ‘community-based judgment’ that a death sentence was ‘proper retribution’”; and
- The constitutionality of the death penalty should be reconsidered.
Justice Thomas’s entire statement in rebuttal, ending in the section quoted above, is excellent… Continue reading