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April 17, 2008


Who said this?

Simply because an execution method may result in pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, does not establish the sort of "objectively intolerable risk of harm" that qualifies as cruel and unusual. ...

Th Supreme Court of the United States this morning in ruling it lawful for states to use lethal injections as a means of execution.

I'e been quite forthright on what I feel about capital punishment several times here, but to see the highest court in the US, "rationally" discuss the legality of not only the barbaric act of state sanctioned murder, but whether on top of everything else, inflicting pain while doing so is acceptable, is, to put it bluntly, sub human.

While this case has been pending before the SCOTUS, there has been an effective moratorium on the application of the death penalty in the US, surely a positive step. Will that come to an end now?

And with many US states now expanding the range of crimes for which the death penalty may apply to crimes other than murder, are things getting better of worse in the nation which holds itself up as the light on the hill for freedom, values, democracy and so on?

April 17, 2008 | Permalink


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John, I think it would be better to refer to "the government of the US" rather than "the nation". The US is full of people (not all, I know) who are mortified and deeply angered by their government and many of the policies in place, and who are actually prepared to put their jobs and personal well-being (and that of their families) on the line to try and change it.

I know your blog reaches many people, but how does you sitting in your nice home office (you don't even have to leave the house to go to work) with its sweeping water views in your safe haven away from any big city and 10 hours flying time from anywhere remotely "dangerous" in the world actually do anything practical to change the laws, or help those on death row?

I agree the laws, and the Supreme Court's decision, are barbaric and wrong, but don't agree with you issuing a blanket condemnation of 304 billion people from the luxurious safety of your isolation cell.

Posted by: Deb | Apr 17, 2008 12:03:32 PM

It isn't odd that the Disenting Justices were Ginsberg and Souter

Of the Majority
Roberts Scalia Thomas Alito and Kennedy would most probably overturn Roe v Wade. A right to life only stretching from contraception to birth

Stevens is 88 and Breyer is a more intellectual liberal so it is odd that he would think that the death Penalty was OK.

The death Penalty is wrong. It is not just that it favours the marginalised death row is predominantly Black and Latino in the United States. In many cases the poor and marginalised are defended by a court appointed lawyer who simply does not have the resources that the legislature can bring to bear against the accused.

In supporting governments that are tough on crime the American population is complicit in the murder of these citizens. The Legislature is responsible to the electors and as both major parties in the United States have similar attitudes to the death penalty ( Bill Clinton executed prisoners as Govenor of Arkansas)

In these circumstances it is valid to argue that the citizens of the united states are comfortable that they are the only western democracy still practicing this barbaric punishment. The fact that the supreme court is overly represented by educated middle class conservatives provides a further example that United States citizens are comfortable with state sanctioned murder. Even when the lethal injection is administered by people with no medical training. If you had a security guard providing anesthetic in a hospital it would be similar to those that prepare an inmate for lethal injection.

I doubt that Australians would feel as comfortable with the death penalty and i can assure you that our high court would not be of the opinion that the death penalty is neither cruel nor unusual.

Posted by: Peter Allsopp | Apr 17, 2008 3:05:02 PM

Look, of course the death penalty is wrong and unfair etc. I'm not arguing with that. I'm just sick of Australians whingeing and pontificating about how bad the US is without being prepared to actually do anything (like leave their pretty comfort zone) and try to fix it. We can all sit in our rooms and moan, but, apart from making ourselves feel slightly better it doesn't do any good. It's just empty rhetoric. If you don't like the US and it means so much to you, then go and actually live there and try to help make it better.

Posted by: Deb | Apr 17, 2008 3:52:40 PM


I'm not sure that a critique of a decision of the SCOTUS may sensibly be characterised as "sitting in [my] room and moaning".


Posted by: John Allsopp | Apr 17, 2008 4:00:54 PM

How would you characterise it then? Yes, it proves to the world that you care. We all do. But how does it actually change anything? I'm just saying it's very easy to criticise something when you're not anywhere near it and have no intention of going anywhere near it.

Anyway, I wasn't referring to your critique of the Supreme Court's decision. I was referring to the bit that says "the nation that holds itself up etc", which lumps every single American together as one person.

Posted by: Deb | Apr 17, 2008 4:20:19 PM


The United States like all countries is wonderfully diverse. In many areas particularly a constitional Bill of Rights at the forefront of liberal thought in 1776 is somthing that Australia is struggling with some 220 years later . The way that universities and Arts organisations are funded is great however there is a flip side. American Exceptionalism, Celebrity Culture and Fox news Channel come to mind.

The comments above were really an explanation as to the views expressed by States and the Supreme Court that the death Penalty is OK. There are Americans that oppose the death penalty however A Gallup poll taken in 2006 showed that two-thirds of Americans endorsed capital punishment for murderers.

That is a pretty damning statistic. Members of Amnesty International oppose the death Penalty in the US and elsewhere, European Countries will not extradite US citizens if they are going to be executed for the crime that they are accused of. The problem with the death penalty is that it doesn't work. Violent crime has not been reduced since the Supreme Court and since Thirty-eight percent of death penalty states now punish some nonhomicide crimes with the death penalty it would have been enlightening for the Supreme COurt to Rule that lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment.

Posted by: Peter Allsopp | Apr 17, 2008 4:37:50 PM

Oh for God's sake, do you think I really need to have it explained to me why the death penalty doesn't work? I don't agree with the death penalty, as I've said in every one of my comments. I have done a lot of reading about the Supreme Court's deliberations, and the reason for it. What bugs me, again, as I said, is the lumping together of every single American as being the same. I know that Fox news is bad, der, on the other hand coming out with a blanket statement like "the nation that holds itself up as the light on the hill etc" - no-one in America, except the Bush government and Fox makes those kind of statements. And, by the way, I don't hold the US citizenry responsible for the Bush government, it's questionable as to whether he was legitimately elected in 2004 (if he was, it was by the skin of his teeth), and certainly was not legitimately elected in 2000. And he is responsible for the current make-up of the Supreme Court.

Posted by: Deb | Apr 17, 2008 5:05:46 PM

Wow, Debs, chill.
All John is saying is give peace a chance.

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