New York Times Editorial Board Says that When the Likely Outcome is Good Enough for our Sensibilities, the Law Should Be Ignored
Reacting to the decision made by the First Circuit Court of Appeals that Jason Pleau must be turned over to the Federal government to answer the indictment for the murder of David Main and potentially face the death penalty (though that is far from certain), the New York Times editorial board wrote that the court “was wrong to insist on the prisoner transfer”.
The reasoning in the editorial was not that the court misapplied the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act, the interstate compact that mandates that Pleau be turned over. Nor did the editorial argue that the IDA itself is unconstitutional. Instead, to reach the outcome that anti-death penalty advocates favor in spite of the law, the Times’ editorial board skipped over legal reasoning altogether and asserted that, since it’s been awhile since anyone received a Federal death sentence and juries more frequently choose life sentences over death when given the option, the court should have just ignored the law…
It’s been nine years since anyone was executed for a federal crime. In the last decade when federal juries have had a choice between imposing a life sentence and the death penalty, they have chosen a life sentence by better than two to one. The government is turning this case into a pointless state-federal clash. The First Circuit was wrong to insist on the prisoner transfer.We all understand that Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee opposes the death penalty in all cases. If the Governor wishes to take a “principled stand” on his policy preference, then the proper way for him to do so is to work for the repeal of Federal death penalty statutes, and not to demand that the state government — whose laws he is charged with faithfully executing — and the Federal courts ignore the law.
And the New York Times editorial board should try to show an understanding of the rule of law that extends beyond the attitude of “whatever we like is legal” that this editorial shows.