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Stevens: Risk Of Wrongful Sentences Higher

Publication Date: 
May 06, 2010
USA Today
Joan Biskupic

Professor Jeffrey Fisher asks Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens about his retirement during the annual meeting of the 7th Circuit Bar Association & Judicial Conference in Chicago. Joan Biskupic of USA Today Reports:

Modern pressures on the judicial system have raised the chance a defendant could be wrongly sentenced to death, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said Wednesday, explaining his changed view on the constitutionality of capital punishment.

"The risk of an incorrect decision has increased," he told an audience of hundreds of lawyers and judges at a judicial conference here, responding to a question about his 2008 assertion that the death penalty should be abolished. He said that because of advances in DNA testing, which have led to the freeing of some innocent convicts, "we're more aware of the risk than we might have been before."


Stanford University law professor Jeffrey Fisher, a former Stevens law clerk who questioned him Wednesday, asked how he might feel on the first Monday in October, when his colleagues take the bench without him.

"I really don't know," Stevens said softly. He said his worry these days is cases yet to be resolved this term. "We're a little behind in some of our output."