Justice Stevens' and the death penalty

In a wide ranging interview with NPR, 90-year old U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens had this to say about the death penalty:

"Both the change in Stevens and the change in the court are illustrated by the issue of the death penalty. When he first joined the court, he voted to revive capital punishment, overturning a de facto moratorium imposed by the court four years earlier.

"I thought at the time ... that if the universe of defendants eligible for the death penalty is sufficiently narrow so that you can be confident that the defendant really merits that severe punishment, that the death penalty was appropriate," he says. But, over the years, "the court constantly expanded the cases eligible for the death penalty, so that the underlying premise for my vote has disappeared, in a sense.

....Instead, he views his vote to uphold capital punishment in 1976 as the one he regrets during his tenure. It is "the one vote I would change," he says. Calling the decision "incorrect," Stevens says the 1976 court "did not foresee how it would be interpreted."


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