“I have little doubt about the cruelty of so long a period of incarceration under sentence of death.”

October 1st, 2011

Breyer knows best that holding a person on death row for 33 years violates the Eighty Amendment.

But haven’t the delays been attributed to the numerous appeals and challenges to his sentence by the defendant?

It might be argued that Valle, not the State, is responsi- ble for the long delay. But Valle replies that more than two decades of delay reflect the State’s failure to provide the kind of trial and penalty procedures that the law requires. Regardless, one cannot realistically expect a defendant condemned to death to refrain from fighting for his life by seeking to use whatever procedures the law allows.

It might also be argued that it is not so much the State as it is the numerous procedures that the law demands that produce decades of delay. But this kind of an argu- ment does not automatically justify execution in this case. Rather, the argument may point instead to a more basic difficulty, namely the difficulty of reconciling the imposi- tion of the death penalty as currently administered with procedures necessary to assure that the wrong person is not executed.

I mean, it is somewhat perverse. Between direct appeals, state habeas challenges, federal habeas challenges, and executive clemency–all processes initiated by the defendant–executions can take forever. And this delay then amounts to cruel and unusual punishment?

Doesn’t this effectively transform the sentence into LWOP (to which people do not seem to mind).

This makes me think of this guy who petitioned Oregon to execute him already, as he was tired of being on death row for too long.

Breyer knows best. Sounds like a terrible 80s sitcom.