Yesterday the Supreme Court dealt yet another blow to the death penalty in the United States when it held that Florida’s death penalty statute, which had been interpreted to permit some people with intellectual disabilities to be executed, violates “ our Nation’s commitment to dignity and its duty to teach human decency as the mark of a civilized world.”
The Court reaffirmed its ruling in Atkins v. Virginia, which held that the eighth amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment prohibited people with intellectual disabilities from being punished with death.
No executions have occurred since the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma April 29, 2014.
“We welcome the Court ruling today and its recognition that the Eighth Amendment is not fastened to the obsolete but may acquire meaning as public opinion becomes enlightened by a humane justice,” said Diann Rust-Tierney, Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Justice Kennedy wrote: “The Eighth Amendment’s protection of dignity reflects the Nation we have been, the Nation we are, and the Nation we aspire to be.”
We see every day that we simply cannot reconcile the death penalty that we have today with the nation we aspire to be. We are not a nation where our government can exercise the power to kill shrouded in secrecy and without accountability. We are not a nation where the government can punish based on race, class, gender, or geography.
Today we redouble our efforts to engage the millions of Americans who believe that the death penalty is wrong. Together we will bring about the enlightened and human justice that the Court speaks about and our Constitution protects.