In a memo she failed to turn over to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor and two colleagues argued against the death penalty because it is “associated with evident racism in our society” and because it “creates inhuman psychological burdens for the offender.”
Along with two other members of a task force of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, Sotomayor said in the March 24, 1981, memo that the death penalty is racist because the “number of minorities and the poor executed or awaiting execution is out of proportion to their numbers in the population. For example, 47 percent of the inmates on death row are black, although blacks constitute 11 percent of the population of the United States.”
The memo failed to mention that blacks account for a similarly high proportion of convictions for violent crimes or to address whether, taken to the memo’s logical conclusion, punishment should therefore be waived for all such crimes.
The memo was uncovered by the Judicial Confirmation Network. On Friday, Wendy Long, the conservative group’s chief counsel, wrote a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., enclosing the memo and noting that Sotomayor had failed to comply with his committee’s request for documents.
That request asked for any “reports, memoranda, or policy statements you prepared or contributed to the preparation of on behalf of any bar association, committee, conference, or organization of which you were or are a member of or in which you have participated.”
A White House official called the omission a “clerical error” and said Judge Sotomayor issued a ruling that allowed to go forward the first case involving the death penalty in Manhattan in 40 years.
The memo to the directors of the Puerto Rican legal defense fund said the group should oppose restoration of the death penalty in New York State. The group adopted the task force’s recommendation and opposed restoring capital punishment.
While the conservative CNSNews.com ran a lengthy story on it on Friday, the mainstream media has largely ignored the memo.
According to the memo, which Long provided to Newsmax, Sotomayor and her two task force colleagues argued, among other things, that the death penalty is “counter-productive; we inflict death on the offender to manifest our opposition to his inflicting death on another.”
The problem of crime and violence in American society “is so complex it is unreasonable to think that capital punishment will result in preventing or diminishing it,” the memo said.
“There are many legitimate arguments against the death penalty, but her memo acts like there’s not even a single argument for it,” Long tells Newsmax. “The memo is pretty shocking in terms of its crude level of reasoning. It jumps to conclusions and overlooks vast bodies of evidence, saying that they’ve read the literature of the last two years and there’s virtually nothing to challenge the evidence and rationale in opposition to the death penalty. That just doesn’t pass the straight face test.”
Long says that while the fact that a disproportionate number of minorities commit crimes “probably does have to do with socio-economic reasons, with educational reasons, it isn’t a manifestation of racism.”
In citing the “burdens” of the death penalty on offenders and their families, Long says, the memo fails to mention the burdens on victims of murders and on their families.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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