Monday, 22 October 2007

Why exactly are some death penalty opponents resisting the moratorium label?

From the Blog Sentencing, Law and Policy :

October 21, 2007

Why exactly are some death penalty opponents resisting the moratorium label?

As detailed in this prior post, the opaque work of the Supreme Court in granting stays since its cert grant in Baze makes it hard to say with great certainty that there is a de facto moratorium on all lethal injection executions now in place. Nevertheless, I find quite intriguing, as detailed in this post from Karl Keys and from comments here, that various persons who support an end to executions seem eager to avoid using the moratorium label to describe post-Baze developments.

Let's start with some basic facts. Partially as a result of the Baze grant and post-Baze developments, there has not been an execution in the United States for nearly a month and more than a dozen scheduled executions in nearly 10 different states have been put on hold. (A few of these stays pre-date the Baze grant, but the Baze grant essentially ensured the stays would not be undone.) Perhaps most significantly, Texas, the state responsible for the majority of executions in 2007, has indicated that it won't even try to go forward with any executions until Baze is decided.

Of course, no formal moratorium has been declared (or really could be declared) by the Supreme Court. Thus, nobody should believe there is a de jure moratorium that ensures no executions until an outcome in Baze. But, in the wake of this past week's stays in Nevada and Virginia and Georgia, I have come comfortably to the conclusion that there is now a de facto moratorium on lethal injection executions. And though it's possible that a state will at some point convince the Supreme Court to allow it to go forward with an execution while we await Baze, I still think the label "moratorium" is the most accurate way to describe the extant consequences of the Baze grant and post-Baze developments.

Intriguingly, it appears that death penalty supporter Kent Scheidegger has now begrudgingly accepted the de facto moratorium label. Why exactly, then, are death penalty opponents eager to resist the moratorium label?

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