"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Justice Stevens Grew Some

Driving around, listening to "Best of Laura Ingraham" shows: there must be a better way to spend a Saturday night in Miami.

Anyway, she was doing sound bites from Justice Stevens and taking pot shots. And I suppose that as a former Thomas clerk she's entitled. Still, for the record, I disagree with her disagreement with the main point that Stevens was making.

He was talking about the admission of gruesome evidence about the crime into murder cases, saying that these tend to stimulate jurors into using emotion instead of reason in what he called the "decisional" process. (Yes, it's a word, but you and I would just say 'the decision process'.)

Sadly, he is quite right. What's more, every prosecutor worth his saline solution knows it. Show a jury a picture of a dismembered corpse and they're that much more likely to decide that whoever is sitting in the defendant's chair is guilty. Human nature.

3 comments:

Kathy Hutchins said...

Show a jury a picture of a dismembered corpse and they're that much more likely to decide that whoever is sitting in the defendant's chair is guilty.

It works both ways, though. Show a jury a picture of a seriously handicapped infant (or better yet, produce said infant in court), and they're much more likely to decide that medical malpractice was committed. Defense attorneys and the plaintiffs' tort bar use tearjerking props just as much as prosecutors do. If one should eschew it, all should.

And driving around Miami listening to The Best of Laura Ingraham has gotta be better than driving around Waldorf Maryland listening to The Tammy Bruce Show. I like Tammy's politics, but she's got no talent as a radio host.

Kathy Hutchins said...

I suppose Justice Stevens has "grown some" in chambers, though -- or maybe it's just impossible for a Republican president's nominee to avoid being made the subject of feminist hysteria.

1975: According to Nan Aron, then the president of the Women's Legal Defense Fund, John Paul Stevens should be opposed because had shown "blatant insensitivity to discrimination against women." (Hat tip: NRO Corner.)

John said...

One has to keep in mind, however, the structure of a capital case. Due to earlier SC decisions, death penalty cases are split in two parts. First there's a trial to determine if the defendant should be found guilty. The sort of victim impact evidence that Stevens was discussing is excluded from this phase.

After the jury has delivered a verdict, there is a separate sentencing phase in which the jury determines what the sentence will be. Additional evidence -- including this time victim impact evidence as well as any similarly emotional evidence presented by the convict -- is heard and the sentence is imposed.