||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
The Kairos Conference: Discerning Justice &
Taking Action on America's Death Penalty
Emory Conference Center, Atlanta, GA
November 16 & 17, 2010
Sponsored by People of Faith Against the Death Penalty
Co-Sponsored by the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church
Presentation on Scripture and the Realities of the American Death Penalty
By: DALE S. RECINELLA, Catholic Lay Chaplain for Florida Death Row
For information: firstname.lastname@example.org | 919-933-7567
An Unfortunate Judicial Connection: Abortion Rights and the Modern U.S. Death Penalty are Irish Twins--Both Birthed from the Same Supreme Court Less Than a Year Apart
By: Dale S. Recinella
When my wife Susan and I speak on the death penalty in Catholic venues around Florida, I often quote the statement of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Harry Blackmun. ďThe execution of a person who can prove he is innocent comes perilously close to simple murder.Ē
Not infrequently, especially at respect life sponsored events, someone who is knowledgeable about the U.S. Supreme Courtís legalized abortion jurisprudence will confront me after the talk. They will be upset that I used a quote on the death penalty from Justice Blackmun even though he wrote the Supreme Courtís majority opinion in the infamous Roe v. Wade decision.
When I inform them that the very same court that gave us Roe v. Wade also gave us the modern American death penalty, they are shocked to their socks. I have yet to meet anyone in the Catholic respect life movement in Florida who knows that the rules for modern abortion rights and the rules for the modern American death penalty were both conceived and birthed by the same court.
Successive U.S. Supreme Courts are named after their chief justice. Roe v. Wade was decided by a vote of 7 to 2 on January 22, 1973. The Court that gave us Roe v. Wade was the Burger Court of 1972-1975. That means that the Chief Justice was Warren E. Burger and the Associate Justices were William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan, Jr., Potter Stewart, Byron R. White, Thurgood Marshall, Harry A. Blackmun and Lewis F. Powell, Jr.
With only White and Rehnquist dissenting, the Burger Court of 1972-1975 found a womanís right to an abortion in the privacy protected by the shadows of the penumbras of the 14th Amendment. Without regard to the fact that the unborn child is a human person from the moment of conception, they fashioned a sliding-scale of abortion rights based upon trimesters of the pregnancy. In other words they resorted to procedures to avoid facing the right to life.
That very same court with the very same justices also decided that the death penalty could be constitutional in the U.S. if it met a labyrinth of factors. The case was Furman v. Georgia decided on June 29, 1972. At the time, no one could argue with a straight face that the U.S. death penalty was not arbitrary, capricious and racially biased. Out of the ether, presumably the same ether that emanated shadows of penumbras in the Roe decision, the Burger Court of 1972-1975 fashioned a procedural solution.
The Burger Court of 1972-1975 said that the death penalty could be constitutional in the U.S. if the procedures were specific enough to prevent arbitrary application and flexible enough to require individual consideration. They created an insane juridical contraption that is still arbitrary, capricious and racially biased. In other words they resorted to procedures to avoid facing the right to life.
Floridaís respect life Catholics are absolutely justified in their outrage at the 1972-1975 Burger Court for the hocus-pocus it used to justify Roe v. Wade.
And we must also be outraged at the same hokum from which the very same Court spun the mirage of constitutional procedures that would justify continued use of the death penalty.
That Courtís whimsical notions of shadows of privacy have not changed the fact that every child conceived by a woman is a human being, a human person. Nor have the emanations of its ethers changed the fact that we cannot justify the taking of the adult human life of an offender unless there is no other means available to protect society.
It is far past the time to correct the constitutional musings of the 1972-1975 Burger Court. All Catholics in Florida should be working together to end abortion and to end the use of capital punishment.
First published: The Florida Catholic OnLine, January 7, 2010
© 2009 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
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Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed