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Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

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Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

Justice Breyer and the Death Penalty

Justice Stephen G. Breyer
Justice Stephen G. Breyer
To the Editor:

Breyer Continues His Push Against the Death Penalty” (news article, Dec. 13), about Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s dissenting opinion in the case of Ronald B. Smith, who was recently executed in Alabama, is far too generous.

Twenty inmates have been executed in the United States in 2016. More than half (including a client of mine) have sought last-minute stays of execution from the Supreme Court (as Mr. Smith did). Justice Breyer recorded opposition in only three of these executions.

If Justice Breyer sincerely has constitutional reservations about the carrying out of the death penalty, he should do what other justices have done upon reaching a similar conclusion, by voting to prevent the execution from going forward.

Until his actual voting pattern demonstrates principled consistency, his on-again, off-again critique of the death penalty not only helps sustain an arbitrary system, but it also exemplifies it.

Source: The New York Times, The Opinion Pages, Letter, David R. Dow, December 22, 2016. The writer is a professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

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