I’ve been in favor of the death penalty ever since I found out what it was. I guess it has something to do with my sense of justice: if you take a life, which is really the only time the death penalty is imposed, you owe a life. It also somewhat contradicts my Catholic upbringing which teaches that all life is precious, but humans have our convenient blind spots, and mine was capital punishment.
For most of my life, I’ve been pretty firm in my belief that killers deserve to be killed. In fact, I still believe it. But for the first time in over 50 years, I can say that I am truly against the death penalty. And I can thank the Supreme Court for inadvertently changing its mind and sharpening my moral compass.
There is a certain inconsistency in embracing the life of an unborn child but rejecting the life of a man. The way I used to reconcile these two mutually exclusive postures is to say that the man sentenced to death is guilty of taking life, while the child in utero is only guilty only one thing: being unwanted by his mother.
It helped me through a lot of conversations. But there was always the underlying assumption that the person put to death was guilty of a heinous crime, and that removing him from the world balanced the heavenly balance. I can’t discuss this anymore.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that this country can legally execute an innocent person. There really is no other way to interpret the opinion written by Clarence Thomas, which places the proper administration of court proceedings, finality and order in the court over humanity.
The court was hearing the case of a man who was convicted of sexually abusing a 4-year-old child so badly that her intestine ruptured and she died of peritonitis. The facts are so horrific that it is difficult to find a window of mercy, a possibility of compassion for the alleged aggressor.
But there was strong, discoverable evidence that the defendant, Barry Jones, was not actually responsible for the child’s death. This included indications that the child had not been raped and that the pathologist’s report was incorrect regarding the actual time of the child’s death. Jones’ attorneys failed to investigate these inconsistencies and practically served him on a set in the state of Arizona. They committed overt, egregious, and ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment.
But Judge Thomas rejected the argument that Jones should get a new trial to prove his possible innocence, noting that “a federal court cannot conduct an evidentiary hearing or otherwise consider evidence beyond the record of the state court on the basis of ineffective post-conviction state attorney assistance. “It basically means that a criminal defendant who had a completely incompetent trial and appellate attorney is stuck with that incompetence, even if it means he could die because of it. The only way to prove that a lawyer was constitutionally ineffective is to present evidence that he did not, evidence that could have resulted in an acquittal had a judge or jury seen it.
Six Supreme Court justices basically said “too bad”. And that’s especially glaring when you consider that the attorneys in this case were court-appointed, not chosen by Jones himself. In other words, the government that chose the pathetic lawyers is the same government that pushes the plunger.
Sonia Sotomayor, not someone I normally agree with, called the decision perverse and illogical, and she’s absolutely right. She should have added that it is also completely inhuman. As someone who looks forward to a decision that will undo the inhumanity of Roe v. Wade, I can’t escape the irony of this incredibly cruel example of nihilism.
And that is why I have come to the conclusion that the death penalty in the United States does not protect the rights of the truly innocent, and that if we persist in killing people without ensuring that they are actually guilty, we have no right to call ourselves a bastion of civil rights.
Just as those who push for the legalization of abortion ignore the dawning humanity of innocence, those who support the Supreme Court’s decision to favor expediency over true justice turn out to be impostors when they is about the sanctity of life.
And if I can resolve the inconsistencies in my soul, maybe these pro-abortion, anti-capital punishment folks can one day do the same.
Copyright 2022 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by the Cagle Cartoons Newspaper Syndicate. Christine Flowers is an attorney and columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]