Law | Opinion

Steve Russell: Crime gods continue to demand human sacrifices

Harry Blackmun served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1970 to 1994. Photo from Wikipedia

Steve Russell discusses problems with the death penalty in the American justice system:
Justice Harry Blackmun couldn’t take it any more and so announced from the US Supreme Court bench that he would “no longer tinker with the machinery of death” and would henceforth vote to reverse all death penalty cases, as several justices had done before him. Never five at the same time, of course.

What he could not take any more is what virtually all judges and most lawyers who know anything about the death penalty admit privately. Death is administered in an arbitrary manner to those least able to resist the government when it determines to make a human sacrifice to the crime gods.

There is no evidence that government killing makes things better for the next of kin. Econometrics tells us that government killing might prevent a future murder while multiple regression analysis tells us that’s not true. Who has the burden of proof, anyway? Adding insult to injury, government killing costs the government a great deal more than life without parole—but money is no object when gods demand blood.

Killing convicts indulges superstition on the level of a cargo cult. Propitiating the crime gods is claimed to bring “cloture” to the next of kin. Guilt is not required of the individual selected for sacrifice, and the more horrible the killing the less evidence of guilt is required.

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Steve Russell: Killing Convicts Is a Vile Superstition (Indian Country Today 9/24)

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