'Pro-Life' SCOTUS Justices Best Ever At Killing People
Donald Trump has decided to end his last few months in office with a killing spree. And as thematically correct as it may be, it's also really fucked up. So far, his administration has fast-tracked the execution of 13 federal inmates, including last night's execution of Dustin Higgs, following a nearly 20-year moratorium on federal executions.
And it wasn't an easy one! The six conservative judges, three of whom were appointed by Trump himself, had to bend several rules in order to make that happen. A district court had stopped Higgs from being executed because federal law requires executions of death row inmates to be conducted "in the manner prescribed" by the state that gave them the death penalty in the first place — and Maryland, where Higgs was convicted, abolished the death penalty in 2013. Back in January, the Trump administration had sent SCOTUS a letter basically asking the justices to just let him have this one. And that's pretty much what they did. Or it's what we can assume they did, because their reasoning for their ruling was placed in the "shadow docket" meaning that we, the public, cannot see why they ruled the way they did.
The three liberal judges, of course, dissented — and were more than happy to explain why, because there is no need to be shady when you're doing the right thing. In Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent, she put things in perspective.
After seventeen years without a single federal execution, the Government has executed twelve people since July. They are Daniel Lee, Wesley Purkey, Dustin Honken, Lezmond Mitchell, Keith Nelson, William LeCroy Jr., Christopher Vialva, Orlando Hall, Brandon Bernard, Alfred Bourgeois, Lisa Montgomery, and, just last night, Corey Johnson. Today, Dustin Higgs will become the thirteenth. To put that in historical context, the Federal Government will have executed more than three times as many people in the last six months than it had in the previous six decades.
This unprecedented rush of federal executions has predictably given rise to many difficult legal disputes.[...]
Against this backdrop of deep legal uncertainty, the DOJ did not tread carefully. Simultaneous with the announcement of the 2019 Protocol, it scheduled five executions; eight would follow in the months to come. This rapid pace required those facing execution to fast-track challenges to their sentences. Rather than permit an orderly resolution of these suits, the Government consistently refused to postpone executions and sought emergency relief to proceed before courts had meaningful opportunities to determine if the executions were legal.
Throughout this expedited spree of executions, this Court has consistently rejected inmates' credible claims for relief. The Court has even intervened to lift stays of execution that lower courts put in place, thereby ensuring those prisoners' challenges would never receive a meaningful airing. The Court made these weighty decisions in response to emergency applications, with little opportunity for proper briefing and consideration, often in just a few short days or even hours. Very few of these decisions offered any public explanation for their rationale. This is not justice. After waiting almost two decades to resume federal executions, the Government should have proceeded with some measure of restraint to ensure it did so lawfully. When it did not, this Court should have. It has not. Because the Court continues this pattern today, I dissent.
As well she should.
There has been good reason for not executing these people previously. Many of them were intellectually disabled or mentally ill, in many cases the drugs that the state is supposed to use cannot be obtained. These are not things that should have been rushed through. They should have been handled thoughtfully and carefully and not pushed through in order to give Donald Trump a lovely going away present.
The conservative judges — who, of course, love and cherish all life, so long that life is currently residing in someone else's womb — are very clearly just trying to rush through as many of these executions as possible because they know there likely will not be another chance to do it for many years. Heck! With Democrats controlling both the executive and legislative branches of the government, America might just abolish the death penalty entirely! That would be really nice.
Anyway! I am super sorry to end today on what is obviously a bummer. Let's hope that once Trump leaves, there will be some less incredibly depressing news to choose from on Saturdays! That would be nice! This is now your open thread — enjoy!
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse