THE ANGELS OF DEATH RIDE AGAIN
DOWN WITH THE BARBARIC DEATH PENALTY!!
The United States Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, has just overturned a Kansas State Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of a Kansas death penalty statute. The Kansas court had held that the statute- which provided that where the evidence was equally divided on the question of sentencing a defendant to life imprisonment without parole or death the death penalty should apply- was unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment. Apparently the U.S. Supreme Court had no such qualms as it positioned itself just slightly to the left of the medieval Star Chamber. New justices, Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Alito voted with the majority, the usual rogue’s gallery of robed closet Nazis Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy. That should come as no surprise to militants.
The immediate impact on the decision on death penalty cases is to further narrow the so-called technical arguments for appeal on due process or equal protection grounds. There was a time when the legal concept of an ‘evolving standard of human decency’ on such grounds in death penalty cases was making some headway. That concept seems foreclosed by the U.S. Supreme Court lineup for the foreseeable future. The wrangling now seems to be over whether the court will continue to ‘tinker with the machinery of death’ as the liberals on the court will argue or basically let the death machine roll along relatively unimpeded. Remember this, however, not one of the nine current justices, liberal or conservative, has come close to publically calling the death penalty unconstitutional. Whatever the grounds for argument against it all militants know that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment and should be abolished.
A reader might ask what a workers party justice of the U.S. Supreme Court would do. In the immediate case, obviously bloc with the minority of justices to oppose this decision which narrows the legal basis for appeals. He or she, however, would write a separate opinion denouncing the death penalty and use the U.S. Supreme Court as a tribunal to galvanize support. Realistically, although many bourgeois governments have abolished the death penalty, at the point where we had a workers party U.S. Supreme Court justice we would probably have a workers government. As one of its first acts that government would abolish such punishment without fanfare.
In any case, no serious militant today should believe that the fight against the death penalty (for the guilty as well as the innocent) depends on court majorities. While all legal avenues, including the U.S. Supreme Court, should be pursued in individual death penalty cases this is a fight that can only be finally won by organizing mass demonstrations and other militant action. Let us do it. DOWN WITH DEATH PENALTY!