THE Constitution bars the federal and state governments from passing ex post facto laws, which retroactively apply a punishment to a crime more severe than the one on the books when the crime was committed. This is good for lawbreakers who do something that later becomes more unpopular and is thus deemed as worthy of greater punishment.
A reverse of this is happening in Connecticut in the debate over abolishment of capital punishment. Abolitionists have momentum on their side, but there's more enthusiasm for taking the death penalty off the table in future murder cases than there is for taking convicted killers off death row. Thus, according to a stateline.org report, Connecticut may abolish the death penalty but not apply the ban retroactively.
Hypothetically, at least, a hypodermic needle could still be inserted into the body of any of the 11 inmates on Connecticut's death row. We say hypothetically because the Nutmeg State has executed only two killers since 1959. Death penalty opponents may agree to the compromise simply to get the ban passed, knowing that killers grandfathered in may never be executed.
Public sentiment continues to play a larger role than justice in the capital punishment arena. In Connecticut, a high-profile home invasion in 2007 that left three dead revived flagging support for the death penalty. Even some who support the ban aren't sure they want to let these two killers live.
Mixed feelings about capital punishment play on the side of death penalty opponents. In the absence of strong support for capital punishment, regardless of how high the profile of a crime, the practice will die a slow death.
The final meals of executed murderers have long been the subject of fascination, derision and tut-tutting by death penalty opponents. A website that tracked the final food requests of Texas death row inmates was widely read but extremely controversial. Some folks think it's nobody's business what a condemned killer eats before taking the needle. The Tulsa World reports that artist Julie Green has painted more than 500 plates for an exhibition depicting the terminal meals of inmates. She hopes this will inspire people to discuss and debate the death penalty. That justification is an empty plate: No shortage of such discussions is evident. During the season of Easter and Passover, some might find the title of Green's exhibition offensive. It's called “The Last Supper” and thus links the execution of an innocent Christ with the execution of convicted killers, whose victims weren't given a menu before losing their lives.
His supporters might see President Obama's newfound love of hydrocarbons as a Nixon-in-China event. Hardly. Obama has no serious interest in upping domestic oil and gas production — other than getting him to what he hopes is a post-re-election frenzy for alternative fuels. If you want a real Nixon-in-China event, look to Washington State, where enough Republicans and conservative Democrats joined liberals to get a gay marriage bill passed. What really turned the page in Washington was key support from the business community. Large corporations have taken the lead on benefits for same-sex couples and are helping in getting gay marriage laws enacted. Corporations may want lower taxes and reduced federal debt, but they can be quite progressive on social issues. They're not the Great Wall of Reactionaries that the “Occupy” crowd claims.
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