The Death of the Death Penalty

The Death of the Death Penalty

Ally Billeaud, Editor-in-Chief:

Billeaud Profile Pic CROPPEDDuring last week’s visit to the University of Minnesota, Justice Scalia said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the death penalty is repealed sometime in the near future. Despite the Justice’s extreme hesitation to interpret law based on international influence,[1] it is nearly impossible to ignore the international community’s role in encouraging the likely abolition of the ultimate punishment. International actors have taken many angles to pressure America to end capital punishment. Politically, countries have refused to extradite individuals back to the States if they are eligible for the death penalty. In fact, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Great Britain had claimed that Osama bin Laden would not be extradited if capital punishment was pursued. Further, the Council of Europe requires that “prior to the extradition of suspected terrorists to countries that still apply the death penalty, assurances must be obtained that this penalty will not be sought.”[2]

International bodies have also pressured the United States indirectly through legal means. In the European Court of Human Rights, a landmark decision held that extraditing the accused back to America would violate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment.[3] This treatment referred to the harsh conditions of death row that a defendant experiences while awaiting execution.

Finally, the international community has taken a stance against the death penalty logistically, specifically the European Union. In 2010, the EU banned the primary anesthetic used in lethal injections, sodium thiopental.[4] In response, America planned to use propofol instead. Propofol is a drug imported to assist in approximately 95% of surgeries that require anesthesia. When the EU discovered America’s plan, the EU claimed it would simply restrict the propofol export.

Pursuant to Justice Scalia’s recent statement and despite his disapproval, it won’t be much longer until America follows the rest of the world’s movement toward abolishing the death penalty.

[1] Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 622-28 (2005) (Scalia, J., dissenting).

[2] Council of Europe, P.A., 2002 Ordinary Sess. (6th Sitting) Combatting Terrorism and Respect for Human Rights, Resolution 1271 (2002).

[3] Soering v. United Kingdom, 11 Eur. Ct. H.R., ser. A, 1989.

[4] Juergen Baetz, America’s Lethal Injection Crisis Starts in Europe, Business Insider (Feb. 18, 2014, 6:30 AM),