Holder Calls for Death Penalty Moratorium

It seems Attorney General Eric Holder, like his boss, is becoming bolder and more outspoken now that he’s leaving his position. He’s now arguing that we should have a national moratorium on executions, at least until the Supreme Court issues a ruling in a case involving lethal injections.

“Our system of justice is the best in the world. It is comprised of men and women who do the best they can, get it right more often than not, substantially more right than wrong. But there’s always the possibility that mistakes will be made,” he said.

“It is one thing to put somebody in jail for an extended period of time, have some new test that you can do and determine that person was, in fact, innocent. There is no ability to correct a mistake where somebody has, in fact, been executed. And that is from my perspective the ultimate nightmare.”

Holder went on to say he disagrees with Justice Antonin Scalia, who has said the U.S. has never executed an innocent person.

“It’s inevitable,” he said during a luncheon at the National Press Club.

Late last month, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal the from death row inmates in Oklahoma who are challenging the state’s procedures for lethal injections.

“I think a moratorium until the Supreme Court makes that decision would be appropriate,” Holder said.

But there are three big problems with this. First, the claim that the US has the best system of justice in the world is so utterly laughable that one has to be almost clinically delusional to believe it. I doubt he actually does believe it, though. This is just the kind of self-congratulatory bullshit that politicians always feel the need to engage in because the American public has this incredibly childish need to be told constantly how amazing they are. Our “justice” system is fucked up beyond measure at every level.

Second, his argument has nothing to do with his conclusion. The Supreme Court case he refers to has nothing whatsoever to do with his argument, which is about the possibility of executing an innocent person. That case deals only with the question of using unapproved drugs in lethal injections now that the approved drugs have become almost impossible to get.

Lastly, it simply doesn’t go far enough. We don’t need a temporary moratorium on the death penalty until the Supreme Court can rule on a case that only deals with the margins of the issue, we need to outlaw the death penalty forever, full stop.

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  • Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    Our system of justice is the best in the world.

    I’d LOL, but it’s just not funny anymore. It’s not just sad how wrong he is – it’s infuriating.

  • blf

    Our system of justice is the best in the world.

    It is too! It is too!! Drones and police are deployed with the utmost discrimination and imprecision, and without those long, expensive, and pointless farces called trial, judge, and jury, or even bothering to inform the criminals of their crimes.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    First, the claim that the US has the best system of justice in the world is so utterly laughable that one has to be almost clinically delusional to believe it.

    They may not believe it, but given that the Right’s current strategy includes painting Obama and anyone associated with “The Left” as “unpatriotic” and “apologizing for America” (e.g. D’Souza, Gulliani, etc.), not glorifying the name of the holy United States of America is a necessary PR evil.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    Opps, sorry. Blockquote fail.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    A moratorium would severely crimp my profits at ULIDCo (Unapproved Lethal Injection Drug Company)*. Granted, I can still sell them as health supplements. Plus, we make all those ignitions for GM and airbags for Toyota.

     

    * ULIDCo: “When you think of a convict slowly choking to death on his tongue, think ULIDCo.” ULID, a division of CocaCola Inc.

  • doublereed

    The states are already quickly getting rid of the death penalty for cost reasons. Nearly all executions take place in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. Even previously execution heavy states like Virginia have essentially halted.

  • eric

    Meh that comment is just yes-butter. A speech convention that should be read as devoid of substantive content, just like starting a letter “Dear Sir” doesn’t mean that person is either dear to you or deserving of a ‘sir.’ Starting a criticism with a compliment is part of the English conventions that come with being invited to give your opinion on a subject for which you have mostly negative things to say. We violate that convention for really egregious people or ideals (if the KKK invites someone to speak on them, most people would feel free to just lay into them), not reporters at the national press club asking about the death penalty.

    I think it’s good that he’s coming out in opposition; better late than never.

  • eric

    Modus:

    )*. Granted, I can still sell them as health supplements

    You just gave us a way to solve the death penalty debates: have death penalties enforced through lethal homeopathic injection. The state is then responsible for maintaining the criminal in a cell until the medicine takes effect. The pro-DP folks get their lethal injection, the anti-DP folks get their life in prison, and congresscritters get their donations from the supplement industry. Everyone wins!

  • busterggi

    The US was death penalty free for for a while back when I was in school, the National Lampoon Radio Hour even did a ‘Welcome Back the Death Penalty’ show when it was put back into effect. The world didn’t stop turning then w/o it and it won’t now.

    But good Christains must have their blood sacrifices.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    It seems Attorney General Eric Holder, like his boss, is becoming bolder and more outspoken now that he’s leaving his position.

    I hate this. We want to congratulate them on bravery, but actually they’re only doing the right thing now that they can’t possibly suffer any political down-side for doing so. Which makes me incandescent with rage. I’m glad they are doing it, of course, but talk about doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. :(

  • naturalcynic

    You missed the REAL reason Holder made these comments. Loretta Lynch is being blocked from confirmation in the Senate. Maybe Holder just wants to light a fire under some asshole Republiscum asses so he can get the hell outta there.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Our system of justice is the best in the world.

    It’s the best that money can buy!

  • howardhershey

    The only way that Scalia can logically make the claim that no innocent person has *ever* been executed in the U.S. is by the following argument: All legally executed people (aside from those who were lynched by a white mob) were found guilty in a court of law. Ergo they were legally guilty when they were executed. A cynic might notice that such an argument ensures that no innocent person can even possibly be executed, by definition.

  • dannorth

    @howardhershey

    Either that or he believes in the doctrine of total depravity under which nobody is innocent.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Either that or he believes in the doctrine of total depravity under which nobody is innocent

    Or he’s a lying doucheweasel.

  • macallan

    “It is one thing to put somebody in jail for an extended period of time, have some new test that you can do and determine that person was, in fact, innocent. There is no ability to correct a mistake where somebody has, in fact, been executed. And that is from my perspective the ultimate nightmare.”

    We’ve been saying that for decades, what the hell took you so long?

  • notruescott

    The Utah state legislature is not standing idly by through the lethal injection crisis: they’re passing legislation to permit the firing squad. Again. Because surely that’s better, right? Right?

  • jaybee

    The enthusiasm by so many for the death penalty seems to be just part of one bigger problem.

    Personally, I see the judgement on the guilty to be a moral and pragmatic response: this person did something bad, how can we reduce the chance of them doing it again now and in the future without completely violating moral requirements that the punishment be proportional to the offense? Giving the victim the satisfaction of seeing the offender suffer should not be a factor in the sentencing.

    But so many people seem to have one goal in sentencing: vindictiveness. They don’t care that the guilty person may be released in the future, and don’t recognize it is in our self interest to rehabilitate them while they are incarcerated. So many people, including “I love Jesus and Jesus loves us all unconditionally”, want a pound of flesh.

  • dannorth

    @jaybee

    I have a feeling that also the death penalty proponents see “justice” as something that happens to other people. It goes with the strong sense of Us vs Them I guess

  • eric

    @17: given the recent spate of mishandled executions, it might be. The State DOJs can’t seem to find people competent in mixing and administering drugs intraveneously for an execution: I bet it would be much easier to find a bunch of highly competent marksmen for an execution.

    @18: yeah, this discussion keeps coming up every time the death penalty is mentioned. The drug unavailability problem could easily be solved by the DOJ if it wanted to; just create their own lab. There are also probably many execution methods that would be less painful and easier to get right. The fact that we don’t do these things is really a sign that we don’t care very much about making executions painless, not a sign that it is really hard to solve this problem.

  • doublereed

    @20 eric

    I think it’s just a sign that nobody wants to pay directly for the drugs, and no one wants to be involved with the execution process.

    The fact of the death penalty is that even though it’s embarrassingly barbaric for a civil society, it’s also been generally popular. It’s even popular in the UK, which banned the death penalty awhile ago.

  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    What?

    What is everyone laughing about?

    Can’t we all agree we have a criminal justice system?

  • http://johnm55.wordpress.com johnm55

    Back in 1979 when the Conservatives were in power in the UK and there was an opportunity to restore the death penalty a rather obnoxious little Conservative politician, named Peter Bruinvels, made a speech in favour of the death penalty in which he declared that he was so much convinced by the case for it that he himself would be prepared to act as hangman.

    The then Prime Minister Edward Heath, who despite being a Tory, was quite a reasonable and humane sort of a chap, replied that the true test for support for hanging was not whether you were content to hang people, but whether you were content to be hanged yourself by mistake.