Ex-Post Facto

Republican ElephantLast year in Connecticut, a bill sponsored by Governor Dannel Malloy (D) repealing the state’s death penalty passed both houses of the general assembly and was signed into law.  Though I personally believe in the death penalty, one thing about the terms of the law is that there would be a grandfather clause affecting the eleven men currently on death row—they could still be put to death depending on how their appeals are handled.

About a year later, one of the elite eleven, as it were, is going to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that this implementation is unconstitutional and that the appeal process should be stopped and their sentences commuted to life sentences. 

Does anyone study the Constitution anymore?  When I was in third grade, I was taught the ex-post facto clause of the Constitution.  For example, if they pass a law on Tuesday making it illegal to ride a bicycle on Elm Street on Sundays, and you rode a bicycle on Elm Street last Sunday, you cannot be arrested or charged with a crime or misdemeanor because it was not yet law of the land when you did it.  The death penalty was the law of the land when the afore mentioned elite eleven were convicted and sentenced; there is no reason to stop their executions.  They still have to go through the same appeal process back when it was the law of the land and which was virtually unlimited appeals.  Had they not repealed the death penalty and limited the appeal process to say, seven year maximum, the elite eleven would still have unlimited appeals.

Unfortunately, the ex-post facto clause sometimes works against us.  Michael Skakel, a Greenwich, Connecticut resident and cousin of the Kennedys, murdered his girlfriend with a golf club in 1975.  The laws allowing minors to be tried as adults went into effect in 1977 so he could get off on that technicality.  He may have waived that right as he waived his right to a speedy trial (he was tried in 1991).  But if he did get off by virtue of ex-post facto, it would have been an exceptional situation based on the fact that nothing is perfect on Earth, and that we have to wait until we are in thy Kingdom to see perfect justice.  The benefits of ex-post facto outweigh the negatives. 

There is definitely no reason to not execute any member of that elite eleven if there is no reason not to after the respective appeal processes have reached practical equilibrium.  Let’s not throw more kerosene on an already intense fire.


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