06 June 2015

Oh, Snap!

In arguments before the Supreme Court, Antonin "Fat Tony" Scalia presented the case of convicted murderer Henry Lee McCollum as a perfect justification for the death penalty.

It turns out that McCollum was innocent:
A little over two decades ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was dismissive of then-Justice Harry Blackmun’s concerns about the death penalty. In fact, Scalia had a case study in mind that demonstrated exactly why the system of capital punishment has value.

As regular readers may recall, Scalia specifically pointed to a convicted killer named Henry Lee McCollum as an obvious example of a man who deserved to be put to death. “For example, the case of an 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat,” Scalia wrote in a 1994 ruling. [Callins v. Collins, which involved Texas, not North Carolina] “How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!”

For Scalia, McCollum was the perfect example – a murderer whose actions were so heinous that his crimes stood as a testament to the merit of capital punishment itself.

Yesterday, McCollum was pardoned. Scalia’s perfect example of a man who deserved to be killed by the state was innocent. North Carolina’s News & Observer reported:
Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday pardoned two half-brothers who were exonerated of murder after spending three decades in prison.
The governor took nine months to make the decision, saying he thoroughly reviewed the pardons sought by Henry McCollum and Leon Brown. Both men are intellectually disabled.
If this story sounds at all familiar, it was last fall when a judge ordered the men released. The confessions appeared to have been coerced 30 years ago and new DNA evidence implicated another man whose possible involvement had been overlooked at the time.

As recently as 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party used a McCollum photo on campaign fliers to attack a Democratic candidate as “soft on crime.”

McCollum hadn’t done anything wrong.
(emphasis mine)

Scalia's habit of assuming facts not in evidence is really starting to wear thin.

This is something that judges, at least judges outside of Texas, should never do.


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