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A Bald-Faced Lie at the Huffington Post

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Most of the time, opponents of the death penalty employ the intentionally misleading half-truth as their weapon of choice.  However, they are not above outright lies when they think they can get away with it.

Has the Supreme Court said that the death penalty is unconstitutional?  Not just in particular cases or through particular procedures, but generally?  Everyone knowledgeable in the area knows the answer is no.  But the Huffington Post Blog yesterday said the answer is yes.

It doesn't matter if the murder in question -- the death penalty -- is legal. It is still wrong. More importantly, it is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court itself said so back in 1972. That's right, writing in 1972 the Court argued that "the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty ... constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments."
Note the "..." in the quote.  What the Supreme Court actually said in Furman v. Georgia is, "The Court holds that the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty in these cases constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments." (Emphasis added.)

In the five separate opinions concurring in that judgment that follow, only two of the Justices said that the death penalty is unconstitutional in general.  Three say only that it is unconstitutional under the standardless discretion statutes used in the cases before the Court.  Those statutes were swiftly repealed and replaced, and none of the death sentences carried out since 1977 or still pending have been imposed under such statutes. 

Citing this quote, with essential words omitted, to say that the Supreme Court has held that the death penalty itself is unconstitutional is a shameless lie.

3 Comments

This one was just a bit much, so I answered the Harvard law student who authored it. Whether he will reply, I have no idea.

To follow up: The student did reply, thusly:

"This is a blog post, you should take it as such. There are indeed some things in it that are not well researched, but that does not invalidate it's primary points which are worthy of further discussion.

"If you would like to participate in that discussion, then I am certain your contributions would be most welcomed. On forums like these, there seems to be a shortage of reasonable argument from the Pro side and it would be great to hear from someone well versed." ###

I responded just now by inviting him, and/or allied faculty members, to participate in an on-campus debate. We'll see if anything develops.

It is much more than "not well researched." He flat-out lied about what Furman held. There can be no doubt that it was a deliberate lie, as he edited out the three words of the quote that contradict his assertion of what the court held.

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