TINKERING WITH THE MACHINERY OF DEATH

April 16, 2008 — Today the U. S. Supreme Court voted 7 – 2 to reject the latest challenge to capital punishment. The issue at hand was not the death penalty itself, but the legality of the methods used to kill people. I am reminded of former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun’s words written shortly before his retirement: “The death penalty experiment has failed. From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.” Clearly, that is all the Court was doing. Until they take up the real question of the death penalty, it will all just be tinkering.

There was one bright spot in today’s decision. Although Justice John Paul Stevens voted with the majority concerning the legality of the lethal injection procedure, he declared that in his opinion, the death penalty is unconstitutional. “I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty represents ‘the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes. A penalty with such negligible returns to the state (is) patently excessive and cruel and unusual punishment violative of the Eighth Amendment.'”

As an organization, TCADP has “enjoyed” more than a year with no executions. We have had the opportunity to present informative and sometimes challenging programs on the death penalty and we may have even influenced a few people along the way. Now we must, once again, begin to prepare for the vigils and memorials that will be scheduled. Attorney General McCollum and Governor Crist have already declared that Florida is ready to move ahead with the execution of Mark Schwab.

TCADP is planning a panel discussion on eyewitness mis-identification for later this month and our annual meeting will be schedule in May. We will keep you posted as things develop.

Sheila Meehan

Chair, TCADP