April 18, 2008

A blast from the past... for me, at least

"I read the news today, oh boy" (credit the Beatles for this line which I shamelessly rip off) and it spoke of the United States Supreme Court ruling 7-2 on the constitutionality of lethal injection as a method of execution for the first time; the landmark ruling is Baze v. Rees, involving a capital case from Kentucky. (Read the link to an AI-US blog, which also posts a link to the decision.)

What struck me wasn't that the US Supreme Court ruled but that it was ruling for the very first time on the constitutionality of lethal injection.

This brought me back to March 2, 1998, when, on behalf of probably my most well-known client, I filed a petition for prohibition, injunction and/or TRO assailing the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 8177 designating lethal injection as the mode of execution in the country; the petition docketed as G.R. No. 132601 was given due course and, on October 12, 1998, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled, for the first time and apparently nine (9) years before the United States, that lethal injection was, to rip off Chief Justice Fernando's famous double negative, "not unconstitutional."

What also strikes me about Baze is the obvious absence of unanimity; there are seven (7) separate opinions, with only two (2) Justices joining the Chief Justice Roberts in his plurality (if you could even call it that) opinion, three (3) Justices concurring only in the result and with separate opinions, and with two (2) Justices (Ginsberg and Souter) dissenting.

Unlike the Philippines, which has, at least for the moment, prohibited capital punishment, it appears that the debate in the United States has just gotten a lot more interesting.

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