Court Battles

Justices reject constitutional review of the death penalty

The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request to review a case challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty.

The request came from Lamondre Tucker, who was sentenced to death in Caddo Parish, La., after he shot and killed his pregnant girlfriend in 2008.

Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from the court’s majority and supported Tucker’s request for review.

Breyer said Tucker may have received the death penalty merely as a result of having been in Caddo Parish. The parish, which accounts for almost half of all death sentences in Louisiana, accounts for only 5 percent of the state’s population and 5 percent of its homicides. 

“Given these facts, Tucker may well have received the death penalty not because of the comparative egregiousness of his crime, but because of an arbitrary feature of his case, namely, geography,” he wrote in his dissent. “One could reasonably believe that if Tucker had committed the same crime but been tried and sentenced just across the Red River in, say, Bossier Parish, he would not now be on death row.”

Breyer suggested the court should review the constitutionality of the death penalty during the last term when he dissented from the court’s majority in Glossip v. Gross. Justices in that case ruled it was constitutional for states to use the drug midazolam in lethal injections. 

“Today’s administration of the death penalty involves three fundamental constitutional defects: serious unreliability, arbitrariness in application, and unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose,” he wrote then. “Perhaps as a result, most places within the United States have abandoned its use.”

Tags Capital punishment in the United States Glossip v. Gross Lamondre Tucker

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