Nearly every death penalty case eventually ends up before the United States Supreme Court, and the Court turns down almost every request for a final stay of execution. For over a decade, Justice William Brennan and Justice Thurgood Marshall issued the following dissent to each of those denials:
On Saturday, the Bangor Daily News was kind enough to publish a piece I wrote about civil liberties in the ten years since 9/11. In it, I take on former Vice President Cheney's notion that keeping America safe requires embracing tools from "the dark side". Here is the conclusion:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit recently issued an important decision on the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. In this case, the issue was the right to medical care for prisoners with life-threatening illnesses. When the State takes control of a person's life in order to punish them, it also takes on a responsibility to treat them humanely.
The Supreme Court has gone home for the summer. Some of the Justices will be hitting the lecture circuit, while others will be hitting the road. I try to read all of the Court's decisions that touch on civil liberties and civil rights, but I have not gotten through them all yet.
That is the standard for the Eighth Amendment's protection--the Constitution protects inmates in prisons and jails from "deliberate indifference to a serious medical need." There are few medical needs more serious than drug addiction, but unfortunately very few prisons and jails do enough to provide tools to inmates to help treat and overcome addiction. In a well-researched article in today' New York Times, Katie Zezima and Abby Goodnough discuss one o