Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer: It's Time For America To Reconsider The Death Penalty

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
Justice Stephen BreyerJustice Stephen Breyer

Alabama executed Christopher Brooks for a 1992 rape and murder on Jan. 21, after the Supreme Court decided to against halting his death. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer objected to Brooks’ execution and said in a statement that he would have granted the request.

In his statement, Breyer wrote that “the unfairness inherent in treating this case differently from others which used similarly unconstitutional procedures only underscores the need to reconsider the validity of capital punishment under the Eighth Amendment,” according to The Washington Post.

Breyer has voiced concerns in the past that the death penalty may be unconstitutional. “I believe it highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment,” Breyer wrote in June 2015 after dissenting in a case in which the Supreme Court ruled that a sedative used during lethal injection in Oklahoma did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, The Washington Post reported in a separate story.

Breyer wrote in his dissent that states have frequently executed people who were later found to be innocent, pointing to a flawed system. He also raised concerns that executions are sometimes arbitrary.

“The risk of arbitrariness is so great and all that put together convinced me that there is a good case to be made under the Constitutional provision, ‘Is it a cruel and unusual punishment’ -- those are the things that are relevant -- that this court should hear the case,” he told MSNBC.

Sources: The Washington Post (2), MSNBC  / Photo credit: The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia/Flickr