"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Four Best Charts From the Supreme Court's Death-Penalty Ruling

Justice Stephen Breyer
Justice Stephen Breyer
Breyer makes the case against "unusual" punishments

When the Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor a controversial lethal-injection drug, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote an impassioned dissent. He argued that not only was the specific drug combo unconstitutionally cruel, but the entire practice of lethal injection should be reconsidered. To back his argument, he brought charts.

"Cruel and unusual punishments" are expressly forbidden in the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The first three items above are Breyer's reasoning for why the death penalty is cruel: The methods are unreliable, the sentencing is arbitrary, and the years of uncertain waiting before execution are torturous. It's the fourth item—the declining use of capital punishment across the U.S.—that Breyer uses to argue the unusual nature of executions.

Argument #4. Geographic Concentration of Executions Is Narrowing

Of America's 50 states, 30 have either legally abolished executions or just stopped conducting them. Of the remaining 20 states, only 11 have had more than four executions in the past eight years. That, writes Breyer, is "a fairly rare event."

The geography of executions is even more concentrated than these numbers imply.

Counties With Five or More Death Sentences

Breyer argues that it's not the number of states that are still executing prisoners that matters but the consistent decline. In the past two decades, no state has reinstated the death penalty. Just three states—Texas, Missouri, and Florida—accounted for 80 percent of executions last year.

Click here to read the full article

Source: Bloomberg, Tom Randall, June 30, 2015

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