Stevens' Powerful Anti-Death-Penalty Views
Former Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired from the Supreme Court in June after turning 90, has come out swinging in the past few days against the death penalty. In an appearance on 60 Minutes on Nov. 28 and a New York Review of Books essay that is now online, Stevens makes the case that capital punishment as it is now administered in the U.S. is hopelessly flawed — and unconstitutional.
In so doing, he is pushing the death-penalty debate just where it needs to go. Supporters and opponents generally argue over whether capital punishment is right in the abstract. The discussion often comes off as little more than late-night dorm-room philosophizing: "Killing is killing, even if the state does it," or "Are you saying that if the Allies caught Hitler, they shouldn't have executed him?"
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