Retiring Justice John Paul Stevens Pleas for Abolition of the Death Penalty

Retiring Justice John Paul Stevens Pleas for Abolition of the Death Penalty

Commentary by Ron Steiner OADP Outreach Chair:

Speaking at a large convention of judges and lawyers, in Columbus, Ohio, last night retiring Supreme Count Justice John Paul Stevens made a direct and emotional plea to abolish the death penalty.

Among his comments before the assembled legal veterans, Stevens said, “The risk of an incorrect decision has increased”. Responding to a question about his 2008 assertion that the death penalty should be abolished, he said that “because of advances in DNA testing”, which have led to the freeing of some innocent convicts, “we’re more aware of the risk than we might have been before.” (“Stevens: Risk of Wrongful sentences higher”, USA Today, May 5, 2010).

Stevens, age 90 will leave the Supreme Court at the end of this session, after 35 years on the bench. In that lethal-injection case, from Kentucky, the Justice concluded, “the death penalty represents the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to society”.

On the reverse page of Stevens’ story in USA Today, a major article appeared about Raymond Towler, a man who served 30 years in the Ohio State prison, released yesterday when DNA evidence proved him an innocent man. Towler, serving a life sentence for rape, is one of hundreds of wrongfully convicted people including 138 from death rows. This concurrent story gave great credence to the words of the retiring Justice Stevens.

You can always release an innocent man from prison, but after an execution, you can never release an innocent man from the grave. Join us in the effort to abolish the death penalty in Oregon.

May 6, 2010, Ron Steiner OADP Outreach Chair

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