20 June 2005

case files often comprise numerous boxes

that is what anthony kennedy said in a particularly inhuman(e) dissent today. kennedy, joined by scalia, thomas and rehnquist, maintained that even in a capital case, sometimes it's just too hard to look through all the information. in this case, the information that might have been gleaned from previous trials included mitigating factors such as severe childhood abuse and borderline intelligence.

how much is one severely flawed life worth? apparently not much.

the most galling aspect of this dissent is the fact that the case files in question were used by the prosecution in order to show that the defendant had a history of violent behavior. obviously, then, the defense was aware that they existed and that it was obligated to review their contents. yet the public defender failed to review them in their entirety, and missed the opportunity to save the client's life.

the crime was horrific, by the way. the victim, an allentown bar owner, was robbed, stabbed and then set on fire. but how coldblooded is a murderer who is apprehended with the victim's blood on his shoes? what is his mental state? how in God's name (probably literally, given that this was central pennsylvania) do you sentence a man with such a tragic history to death? as is often the case, the callousness of the crime is overshadowed by the callousness of the conservatives who sit on our supreme court.