Three Cheers for the U.S. Supreme Court

by on July 2nd, 2008

I believe the U.S. Supreme Court is to be applauded for its last three major decisions. I’m referring to its recent decisions to guarantee habeas corpus rights to detainees at Guantanamo Bay, strike down the death penalty for child rapists in Louisiana, and invalidate the handgun ban in the District of Columbia. In each of these cases, it has sided with common sense over zealotry.

Denying habeas corpus rights to anyone is un-American, even when it’s being done to foreigners suspected of committing acts of terrorism against the United States or conspiracy to commit such acts. And according the Supreme Court’s ruling, it’s also unconstitutional. What did it accomplish anyway? It certainly didn’t make us any safer. The only thing I see that it did is make the rest of the world hate us. Is that what we wanted?

Those on the losing side of this argument are now saying that extending habeas corpus rights to terrorism suspects will certainly lead to more American deaths. Don’t believe them — they’re trying to sell us a bill of goods. It’s nothing but the politics of fear, a tactic that the Bush Administration has been using for nearly eight years.

No one wants to side with child rapists, but should they be executed for their crimes? Making them pay the ultimate price seems disproportional to me. One of the principles of the rule of law is that the punishment must fit the crime. When the punishment is far more severe than the crime, we have a case of cruel and unusual punishment. It could also be considered cruel and unusual because most states ban the death penalty for anything other than murder. That’s the way the Supreme Court saw it in striking down Louisiana’s application of the death penalty to child rapists.

Any time someone hurts a child, people naturally react to it emotionally. But we can’t let emotions dictate law. Law must be applied with logic, reason, and fairness. Lawmakers in the state of Louisiana, along with those in a handful of other states, apparently allowed their emotions to guide them in writing laws that made child rapists eligible for the death penalty.

One other thing that needs to be considered here is that executing child rapists puts their victims in greater danger of being murdered. If someone who rapes a child knows that he will get the death penalty for that act, he has no motivation to spare the child’s life. The punishment for rape and murder would be the same, so (to his way of thinking) he might as well kill the child he raped in order to keep him or her from telling about it, thus making it less likely that he will be caught.

The Court’s decision on handguns affirmed the rights of individuals to own guns and keep them in their homes. Hysterical anti-gun lobbyists would have taken this precious right away if they could have, and were hoping the High Court would give them just that opportunity. Thank God it made the right decision! Whether the Second Amendment applied to individual gun owners (in addition to militias) should never have been in dispute, but apparently it was. Hopefully, this decision has settled the matter once and for all.

Terry Mitchell