That's the title of a New York Times editorial. It appeared in the Sunday edition.
In the current "New York Review of Books," the retired Justice John Paul Stevens makes a compelling argument for abolishing the death penalty. He explains how it fails to meet the Supreme Court’s own standards for execution and persists only because of misguided political and cultural reasons.
When the court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, it said an execution could avoid being a “gratuitous infliction of suffering” if it served the purpose of incapacitation, deterrence or retribution. Justice Stevens argues first that it is now unnecessary for incapacitation because “the remedy of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole” has, over the last three decades, been enacted in 48 of 50 states.
While some scholars disagree, the retired justice is also persuasive that execution serves no “significant deterrent purposes,” especially since long delays in many executions undermine any potential for deterrence.
The reasons the death penalty persists, he argues, are political and cultural. That is the core point of Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition by David Garland, which Justice Stevens writes about in his essay.
The justice says that endorsing capital punishment is touted as a commitment to law and order — whether it was Gov. George W. Bush presiding over 40 executions in Texas in 2000 (the most ever in a year in one state) or elected judges in Alabama favoring the penalty (while unelected judges in Delaware do not). Its cultural power is demonstrated by Americans’ appetite for mysteries about murder and revenge.
While these forces need to be recognized, Justice Stevens is right that they are "woefully inadequate justifications" for a penalty that is a brutal anachronism.
Justice Steven's comments to the CBS News' program 60 Minutes is at the link.