March 23, 2005


Santorum re-examining death penalty (The Associated Press, March 23, 2005)

Sen. Rick Santorum, a longtime death penalty supporter, said he is re-examining his stance but not to the point of saying it is wrong in all cases.

"I still support the death penalty, but what I'm suggesting is, number one, we have to be more cautious," he said Tuesday, saying capital punishment should be limited to the "most horrific and heinous of crimes."

Santorum, who is running for a third term, said he is "not saying that I fundamentally believe the death penalty is wrong."

In an interview published in Tuesday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Santorum, a Roman Catholic, said he agrees with the pope that the use of the death penalty should be limited.

For instance, we now know that eye witnesses are so unreliable as to be nearly useless. Mere "observation" can not be the basis for execution. More scientifically reliable evidence should be required.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 23, 2005 4:07 PM

Gov. Keating once floated the idea of a new standard of evidence called something like 'guilty beyond moral certainty' for the death penalty. I think he was on to something. Eye witness accounts would probably not suffice in this case. But that guy who killed the police in Atlanta would still swing.

Posted by: JAB at March 23, 2005 5:25 PM

"capital punishment should be limited to the "most horrific and heinous of crimes."

Well, good luck to him. If he can square that circle, he's a saint and genius.

One very modern argument against capital punishment is the gradual undermining of the old perogative of mercy (pardon) by excessive politicization, media scrutiny and judicial challenges on "discrimination", etc. It is more and more difficult to convince anyone such a decision is particular, moral and untainted. A modern governor saves himself a lot of trouble by just letting everyone hang.

David mentioned the other day that he half- expected the President to come out against c.p.
It's not hard to see it coming. If you are fighting for the culture of life against abortion and euthanasia, etc., you may have to accept that modern public opinion just isn't able to distinguish between the two and that bowing out on one brings a lot of support for the others. The bastards may fully deserve to forfeit their lives, but we may eventually conclude their deaths just aren't worth the cost and trouble.

Posted by: Peter B at March 23, 2005 6:03 PM

No worries, Senator, I'm sure this newspaper interview will be quoted as evidence of our evolving moral consensus when Anthony Kennedy reads the constitutional goat entrails and discovers the next semiannual new-but-retroactive restriction on capital punishment. Just a matter of time before the Wheel of Fortune lands on "Total Abolition" again.

That guy in Atlanta is going to linger for 20 years while his taxpayer-funded lawyers throw spanners into the cogwheels of justice, and he'll probably die in a knife-fight in prison before he meets Old Sparky.

Kill the innocent by the millions, set the guilty free, and let perverts parade in the streets. Being professionally associated with the US Supreme Court is probably the single most depressing part of being a lawyer, although being professionally associated with the American Bar Association comes close.

Posted by: Random Lawyer at March 23, 2005 6:04 PM

To me, the death penalty is just another government program-- why would anyone expect it to be fairly or competently administered? Limit it to killing law enforcement officers or murders committed while incrcerated, whether of a gaurd or another prisoner.

Posted by: Dan at March 23, 2005 6:45 PM

Mere "observation" can not be the basis for execution. More scientifically reliable evidence should be required.

This has to be one of OJ's little jokes.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at March 23, 2005 10:46 PM

Random Lawyer:

Agree on your thoughts about the Supreme Court and ABA (in particular). We didn't prosecute capital cases when I was a federal prosecutor, but I prosecuted plenty of cases based solely on eyewitness testimony. As a supporter of capital punishment I would hope that, in exercising prosecutorial discretion, District Attorneys don't seek the death penalty in 'eyewitness-only' cases.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at March 23, 2005 10:50 PM


To the contrary, I trust science to defeat Science.

Posted by: oj at March 23, 2005 11:40 PM

We simply do not exercise the death penalty enough. If we were executing about 10000-30000 people a year, we would just about have things right. There should be the death penalty for recidivist violent felons or people who commit violent felonies while in prison as well as merely for first degree murder.

The use of DNA evidence should make the eventual application of the death penalty easier rather than harder.

There's a lot of crime out there. Let us not mistake compassion and mercy for weakness, sloth and cowardice.

Posted by: bart at March 24, 2005 10:18 AM