- Stevens and Thomas, in happier times.
The Supreme Court has just handed down their ruling in Graham v. Florida, the majority holding that sentencing a juvenile offender to life without possibility of parole for crimes other than homicide constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” as defined by the Eighth Amendment and court precedent. (The opinion is downloadable, as always, on supremecourt.gov.)
It was a close decision, so Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, as the framers intended that the court’s swing vote always do. Predictably, flyridden mound of feces Clarence Thomas, who believes that all children are guilty until proven innocent, dissented, arguing that the constitution never intended for “proportionality in sentencing” to fall under Numero Ocho, and furthermore that Kennedy’s invocation of “evolving standards of decency” is a wishy-washy and presumptuous bit of judicial activism.
The retiring John Paul Stevens joined Kennedy’s majority opinion, but also authored a separate concurrence—not because he disagreed with any part of the opinion, but just so that one of his final acts as a Supreme Court justice would be to lay the smack down on that Thomas motherfucker. In its entirety, Stevens’s concurrence reads:
In his dissenting opinion, JUSTICE THOMAS argues that today’s holding is not entirely consistent with the controlling opinions in Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U. S. 63 (2003), Ewing v. California, 538 U. S. 11 (2003), Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U. S. 957 (1991), and Rummel v. Estelle, 445 U. S. 263 (1980). Post, at 7—9. Given that “evolving standards of decency” have played a central role in our Eighth Amendment jurisprudence for at least a century, see Weems v. United States, 217 U. S. 349, 373—378 (1910), this argument suggests the dissenting opinions in those cases more accurately describe the law today than does JUSTICE THOMAS’ rigid interpretation of the Amendment. Society changes. Knowledge accumulates. We learn, sometimes, from our mistakes. Punishments that did not seem cruel and unusual at one time may, in the light of reason and experience, be found cruel and unusual at a later time; unless we are to abandon the moral commitment embodied in the Eighth Amendment, proportionality review must never become effectively obsolete, post, at 8—9, and n. 2.
While JUSTICE THOMAS would apparently not rule out a death sentence for a $50 theft by a 7-year-old, see post, at 4, 10, n. 3, the Court wisely rejects his static approach to the law. Standards of decency have evolved since 1980. They will never stop doing so.
Oh hee hee ha ha ho ho ho. Justice Stevens, I’m going to miss you.