Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens cast one of the votes that brought the death penalty back in 1976. At the time, he felt that it was possible to ensure “even-handed, rational, and consistent imposition of death sentences under law.” In 2008, two years prior to his retirement from the court, Justice Stevens changed his mind, stating that he now believed the death penalty to be unconstitutional.
The reason for his change of heart has had been unknown until recently.
In a new essay published in The New York Review of Books, he wrote that personnel changes on the court, combined with “regrettable judicial activism,” had created a system of capital punishment that is plagued by racism, tilted toward conviction, and too easily influenced by politics. Read this powerful essay here.
You can also watch a clip from a recent 60 Minutes where Justice Stevens reflects on his views on the death penalty by clicking on the video below.