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Supreme Court's Decision Upholds Kansas Death Penalty on States Rights

The federalist majority on the US Supreme Court today broke a stalemate concerning the death penalty in Kansas for a man convicted of the brutal murder of a woman and child in 1996. The 5-4 decision was sharply devided as liberals sought to establish standards for juries to weigh evidence in death penalty cases. Conservatives/federalists contended that it is the right of the states to debate and pass legislation weighing the use of capital punishment as a deterrent of violent crime.
The Reuters article can be found at:  link to news.yahoo.com

According to Antonin Scalia, "The American people have determined that the good to be derived from capital punishment in deterrence, and perhaps most of all in the meting out of condign justice for horrible crimes outweighs the risk of error. It is no proper part of the business of this court, or of its justices, to second-guess that judgment, much less to impugn it before the world ."

Since the Constitution of the United States provides for trial by jury, legal representation, security from unlawful search and seizure, and protection from cruel and unusual punishment, I assume these standards were met in Kansas. From that perspective, it is reasonable for a conservative/federalist majority (I do not equate secular conservatism with federalism) to uphold states' rights to determine the good to be had from legislation.

However, the same criteria can and should apply to death with dignity laws, environmental protections, drug use, etc. Should not, using Scalia's broader logic, a state have the right to reject federal restrictions on use of heroin as an analgesic for terminally ill patients? Should not Americans in a given state be allowed to weigh the benefit of legalizing hemp for industrial or recreational use against the risk to presents to society--e.g. the revenue contribution from use of hemp fiber and/or recreational sale and taxation, versus the costs associated with enforcement of illegal marijuana and the resources that takes away from fighting more serious crimes and substance use?

As this new phase of American judicial history moves forward, it will be interesting to watch, and necessary to monitor, the consistency with which the conservative/federalist Supreme Courts adheres to its mantra of "states rights."
scalia 26.Jun.2006 12:20


needs to check himself in to the psychiatric ward.
Why couldn't we have him checked into one of those wards--he is a danger to the community, so why not? If we are serious and not joking then we will do it.

Confusion of language 26.Jun.2006 12:28


It's been 30 years since I received my degree in Poli Sci, so maybe labels have changed since then. I learned in school that federalists and "states-righters" were on opposite sides of the states rights debate. The federalists are the people who want a strong central (federal) system.

also, to be clear 26.Jun.2006 13:21


Not that I want to waste too much time quibbling over meaningless labels but supporting the death penalty is not consistent with conservative rhetoric. The death penalty is extremely costly to the taxpayer for no discernable benefit. It also relies on a belief of infallibility of government which is inconsistent with conservative rhetoric of government incompetence. Those who support the death penalty are those who believe that a human institution (namely the government) is incapable of making mistakes and should administer punishment regardless of the cost to the citizens (which of course describes the current administration and its adherents perfectly). Those people may call themselves conservatives, just as I may call myself a purple bunny, but it doesn't make it true. Looking at the other countries which still have the death penalty gives one the idea of what the government looks like when run by people with those beliefs: China, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, North Korea, Guatemala, Nigeria, Sudan... and the list goes on. Furthermore, empiricism has shown time and again the crime rates drop in countries and in US states following the abolition of the death penalty.

state rights 26.Jun.2006 19:47


The bottom line is that the people in power now like to kill. They can use whatever justification they want for it. Whether that be "state's rights" or something else, it does not matter. They just like to kill.

I would love to see a return to state's rights as a primary topic discussion (if there ever really was one). Maybe they will shoot themselves in the foot because of their greed and open up the door for states like Oregon and Vermont to allow gay marriage or legalize drugs or have an income guarantee or any one of a million really "duh" things that will improve society. At this point in our history state's have very little if no power left at all.

"...outweighs the risk of error..." 27.Jun.2006 07:46

Pravda or Consequences

Sorry Antonin Scalia, but once you murder someone, there is no going back. Therefore unless the 'state' is willing to accept its own cupability when it executes the wrong guy, it must be charged with manslaughter because it took a life. It will never happen, because we could never stand up to the sins we have committed.

Embracing vengeance instead of justice reflects arrogance not wisdom.

State's Rights is Federalism 27.Jun.2006 18:56


At least that's what conservatives mean when they talk of Federalism. Federalism is the creation of a "federation" of strong state governments into a weak union that provides only military and trade support. It is opposed to Republicanism--which is a strong central govermnent, and also kind of ironic.

I'm not sure how these terms got thier modern usage, and why the current party breakdown exists, but if you read a bit about federalism, you will constantly come across the idea that the goverment should leave critical issues to the states--also knows as a logical reading of the 10th amendment.