Saturday, June 6, 2009


Two death penalty stories of note. First, New England, then Guantanamo.

New England:

In May 2000, then Governor of New Hampshire Jeanne Shaeen vetoed a bill that would have ended the state's death penalty. Yesterday, just over nine years later, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell vetoed her legislature's abolition bill. (Stories here and here.) She's not new to this. In December 2004, when Connecticut was getting ready to kill Michael Ross (it happened in May 2005), she announced that she would veto any abolition bill. (Story here,)
In a message accompanying yesterday's veto (you can read it here), Rell said what is clearly true (there are passionate retentionists and passionate abolitionists) and what is clearly nonsense ("There is no doubt that the death penalty is a deterrent" [the emphasis is mine]).
She also took the opportunity to condemn the legislature for having "largely ignored" a study commissioned by the legislature and issued in 2003 (available here).
The report made significant and thoughtful recommendations that have been largely ignored by the Legislature, including training for public defenders and prosecutors. The goal of the report is to ensure that each decision to seek the death penalty is based upon the facts and law applicable to the case and is set within a framework of consistent and even-handed application of the sentencing laws, with no consideration of arbitrary or impermissible factors such as the defendant’s race, ethnicity or religion.
Yet at the same time she chastised the legislature for ignoring the study's recommendations, she said that she opposed them.
I believe that the current law is workable and effective and I would propose that it not be changed.
There will be an effort to override, at least in the House, but there aren't likely to be enough votes. So despite the votes of their legislatures, Connecticut and New Hampshire will, for the time being, remain the only states in New England that have the death penalty.


You'll recall that back in December, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramsay Bin al-Shibh, Mustafa al Hawsawi, Walid Bin Attash, and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali the five prisoners at Guantanamo who were facing capital charges over the 9/11 hijackings all tried to plead guilty and accept execution. (Stories here and here.) The Military Commission has yet to rule on whether guilty pleas would be allowed.

Now it's reported (here) that the administration is drafting legislation that would specifically allow them to do that. Why? Because it would be really hard to convict them if we held real trials (or even sham trials). So we're going to encourage them to commit suicide by Military Commission. That way the world will see how fairly we're treating them and they won't become martyrs.


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