As we ring in the new year, one of the primary battlegrounds where recent death penalty reforms have been won is about to change dramatically. One of the first issues the Congress will debate after the winter recess is the appointment of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Though TCADP takes no position on Judge Alito’s confirmation, as abolitionists, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves about his record in death penalty cases.
In his 15-year career on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Alito participated in 10 capital cases. Five were decided unanimously by three-judge panels. The other five provoked strong disagreement between Judge Alito and his colleagues.
The American Constitution Society has released a 15-page paper, ‘Judge Alito and the Death Penalty,’ by law professors Goodwin Liu and Lynsay Skiba examining Alito’s rulings. In each of the five contested cases, Alito ruled against the inmate’s claims. His opinions reveal his perspectives on federalism, race, and due process of law. They appear to show a tolerance for serious errors in capital proceedings.