Sotomayor Vs. The Death Penalty

June 9, 2009

IBD         8 June 09

Justice: Sonia Sotomayor says the death penalty disproportionately impacts minorities. A question for her: Death sentences are meted out most often to (a) blacks, (b) whites, (c) Hispanics or (d) the guilty.

A recently unearthed memo not disclosed on the questionnaire filed with the Senate Judiciary Committee shows that the empathy that the Supreme Court nominee feels is more for the predators among us than their victims. It also shows that some of the reasons this self-proclaimed “wise Latina” has for opposing capital punishment are bogus and flawed.

In her Senate questionnaire, Sotomayor accurately reported that from 1980 to 1982 she worked for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. She also truthfully included an April 19, 1981, letter from the PRLDEF to then-New York Gov. Hugh Carey opposing the reinstatement of the death penalty in that state. That letter was not signed by Sotomayor.

What Sotomayor did sign was a March 24, 1981, memo she and two other members of a PRLDEF task force sent to the PRLDEF board listing reasons for opposing the death penalty. Wendy Long, counsel for the Judicial Confirmation Network, sent a letter Friday to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., noting it was missing from Sotomayor’s document dump.

“There are many legitimate arguments against the death penalty, but her memo acts like there’s not even a single argument for it,” Log observed. Our reading shows that her opposition appears to be, well, just plain goofy.

One of the eight reasons Sotomayor et al. give for opposing capital punishment is that it “creates inhuman psychological burdens for the offender and his/her family.” So what about the trauma inflicted on the families of his/her victims? What about the children orphaned, the wives widowed? This is empathy gone terribly wrong.

The Sotomayor memo also says: “The problem of crime and society is so complex, it is unreasonable to think that capital punishment will result in preventing it or diminishing it.” If Sotomayor doesn’t think the death penalty is a deterrent, just ask the family of a prison guard murdered in a state without it. Without the death penalty, such a crime is possible.

Without the death penalty, the clerk of a convenience store being robbed is likelier to be murdered, eliminating the only witness to a crime. In many crimes, if the predator faced the ultimate penalty, the victim might not.

As researcher John Lott Jr. reports: “Generally, the studies over the last decade that examined how the murder rates in each state changed as they changed their execution rate found that each execution saved the lives of roughly 15 to 18 potential murder victims.”

Then there’s the Sotomayor kicker: “Capital punishment is associated with evident racism in our society. The number of minorities and the poor executed or awaiting execution is out of proportion to their numbers in the population.”

Fact is, murders and victims don’t fall in neat demographic columns. Black people represented an estimated 13% of the U.S. population in 2005 but were the victims of 49% of all murders. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, 2007, 90.2% of black murder victims were murdered by other blacks. Do we care more about black murderers or black victims?

Empathy for predators is not new. Cop killers like Mumia Abu-Jamal, despite his obvious and proven guilt in the murder of Philadelphia police officer Danny Faulkner, and the recently executed Hollywood favorite, Tookie Williams, have became poster children for the left as symbols of racial bias in the justice system.

To us, they are symptoms of well-executed justice. They are also symbols from which the Supreme Court and Sonia Sotomayor should help to protect all of us — black, white or whatever.

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