Justice Ginsburg expresses fondness for Furman's halt to capital punishment

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

This new article from the San Francisco Chronicle, headlined "Justice Ginsburg discusses equality, death penalty," reports on some notable comments by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concerning the death penalty and the Supreme Court's four-decade effort to provide constitutional regulations for its administration:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking to law students in San Francisco, called Thursday for equality for gays and lesbians and said the court should return to a 1972 ruling that halted executions nationwide....

The subject of capital punishment came up when Hastings Professor Joan Williams, who conducted the 90-minute question-and-answer session, asked the 78-year-old justice what she would like to accomplish in her remaining years on the court. "I would probably go back to the day when the Supreme Court said the death penalty could not be administered with an even hand, but that's not likely to be an opportunity for me," Ginsburg said.

She was referring to the ruling in a 1972 Georgia case that overturned all state death penalty laws, which had allowed judges and juries to impose death for any murder. Four years later, the court upheld another Georgia law that prescribed death for specific categories of murder and gave guidance to juries, a model that California followed when it renewed capital punishment in 1977.

Ginsburg described review of impending executions as "a dreadful part of the business," and said she has chosen not to follow the path of the late Justices Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan -- who declared in every capital case that they considered the death penalty unconstitutional -- so that she could maintain a voice in the debate.

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