WaPo Challenges SCOTUS on Anti-Death Penalty Ruling

Here's something you don't see every day: a major American newspaper admonishing the Supreme Court for ruling against the death penalty.

Yet, that's not even close to the oddest aspect of Saturday's editorial by the Washington Post, for the paper agreed with the Court's 5-4 decision to ban the death penalty for those convicted of child rape, but felt compelled to expose an error in how the Justices reached their conclusions.

In fact, the Post laid out a convincing enough case that the state of Lousiana might have grounds for a rehearing (emphasis added, h/t Hot Air headlines):

The majority determined that capital punishment for child rape was unconstitutional, in part because a national consensus had formed against it. As evidence, the court noted that "37 jurisdictions -- 36 States plus the Federal Government -- have the death penalty. [But] only six of those jurisdictions authorize the death penalty for rape of a child." Actually, only two years ago, Congress enacted a death penalty for soldiers who commit child rape, as part of an update to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Irony of ironies: The court has cast doubt on the constitutionality of an act of Congress based on the erroneous claim that the statute did not exist. [...]

The Supreme Court's legitimacy depends not only on the substance of its rulings but also on the quality of its deliberations. That's why we think the court needs to reopen this case -- even though we supported its decision. The losing party, Louisiana, still has time to seek a rehearing, which the court could grant with the approval of five justices, including at least one from the majority. The court could limit reargument to briefs on the significance of the UCMJ provision. We doubt the case will come out much differently; we certainly hope not. But this is an opportunity for the court to show a little judicial humility. Before the court declares its final view on national opinion about the death penalty, it should accurately assess the view of the national legislature.


Judiciary Capital Punishment Crime Washington Post
Noel Sheppard's picture