|A bleak place to die (WSJ photo)|
Alabama said Mr. Smith was being treated fairly because prison policy currently allows no inmate to have a minister alongside as they are put to death. Mr. Smith argued that a 2000 federal law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, required the state to accommodate his request.Willie B. Smith III
Writing for the plurality, Justice Elena Kagan said federal law had guaranteed Mr. Smith “his last wish.” Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, along with Justice Barrett, joined her opinion.
was convicted of the 1991 murder of Sharma Ruth Johnson, 22 years old, whom he and a teenage accomplice first kidnapped and robbed when she stopped at an ATM in Birmingham, Ala. The jury voted 10-2 for a death sentence instead of life imprisonment.While a complete count was not forthcoming, it has been disclosed that the three "liberal" Justices (Breyer, Kagan, and Sotamayor) were joined by Amy Coney Barrett and either or both Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito to comprise the majority that rejected Alabama's position. Three "conservative" Justices (Kavanaugh, Roberts, and Thomas) would have allowed the execution to proceed.
The outcome is an illustration of how Justices' viewpoints are so easily and mistakenly caricatured during their Senate confirmation hearings. Justice Kavanaugh, for example, was not an automatic pro-Christian vote, while the liberal Justices said that religious expression trumped the State's position.
Acknowledging that non-believers may be using religious rights as a tool to forestall the death penalty, your humble blogger is nevertheless glad that a blow has been struck in favor of religious expression.