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Posted by on Jan 4, 2010 in Politics, Society | 6 comments

Capital Justice System in U.S. Irretrievably Broken

In his column today Adam Liptak looks at the American Law Institute, which created the intellectual framework for the modern capital justice system almost 50 years ago. And then pronounced its project a failure and walked away from it:

A study commissioned by the institute said that decades of experience have proved that the system cannot reconcile the twin goals of individualized decisions about who should be executed and systemic fairness. It added that capital punishment is plagued by racial disparities; is enormously expensive even as many defense lawyers are underpaid and some are incompetent; risks executing innocent people; and is undermined by the politics that come with judicial elections.

Roger S. Clark, who teaches at Rutgers School of Law in Camden, N.J., and was one of the leaders of the movement to have the institute condemn the death penalty outright, said he was satisfied with the compromise. “Capital punishment is going to be around for a while,” Professor Clark said. “What this does is pull the plug on the whole intellectual underpinnings for it.”

Liptak quotes University of California, Berkeley, Franklin E. Zimring that “It’s very bad news for the continued legitimacy of the death penalty… But it’s the kind of bad news that has many more implications for the long term than for next week or the next term of the Supreme Court.”

And what do you think?