The Cable

Scalia: I ‘Wouldn’t Be Surprised’ if the Supreme Court Outlaws the Death Penalty

Supreme Court Justice Scalia says the death penalty could soon be ruled unconstitutional.


In his historic address to Congress Thursday, Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic church, called for the United States to end the death penalty. If Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is correct, the pontiff may soon get his wish.

Speaking at Rhodes College in Memphis Tuesday night, Scalia, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan and is considered one of the more conservative justices on the court, said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if his fellow justices ruled executions by the criminal justice system unconstitutional. He added that he personally believes executions are legal if the person who is to be put to death received a fair trial.

Scalia based his prediction on simple math: He believes death penalty opponents on the nation’s highest court will soon have the five votes necessary to overrule the four other justices, who would be willing to preserve the system. Scalia didn’t call any of the eight other members of the court by name. His comments were first reported locally by the Commercial Appeal.

In June, the court, in a 5-4 ruling, rejected claims from death penalty opponents that a drug used for lethal injections in Oklahoma is not reliable. The court is scheduled to hear arguments on three pending cases involving the death penalty this fall.

The judge also weighed in on drone strikes against Americans abroad, making clear that he has no problem with them.

“I think, if that person has taken up arms against the United States, what’s the difference between allowing our soldiers to shoot him dead and allowing a drone to kill him?” Scalia said.

Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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