In an opinion released on Wednesday, United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote:
I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty represents “the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes. A penalty with such negligible returns to the state (is) patently excessive and cruel and unusual punishment violative of the Eighth Amendment.”
Absolutely right …
It is difficult for me to discern even a “marginal” contribution to the public good. What does the death penalty accomplish, except to satisfy an unholy desire for retribution or revenge? It does not make people better or society safer. On the contrary, it reinforces a culture of violence and encourages the least helpful — and the least noble — impulses in a victimized society.
As a nation that proclaims itself a defender of liberty and human rights, it would only be right for us to lead the rest of the world toward the total abolition of the death penalty, but we aren’t. We aren’t leading. We’re not even following.