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Conservative Group Criticizes Sotomayor on Death Penalty Memo

By Jerry Markon
A conservative group is criticizing Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor for signing a 1981 memo that opposed the death penalty and said “capital punishment is associated with evident racism in our society.’’

The Manassas, Va.-based Judicial Confirmation Network today said the document, written when Sotomayor was on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, offers a window into her thinking on the divisive issue of capital punishment.

The memo “provides an important data point to flesh out the picture of her that is emerging from her other writings, speeches and judicial opinions: a hard-left liberal judicial activist,’’ Wendy E. Long, the network’s counsel, wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sotomayor was one of three board members of the Puerto Rican advocacy group to sign the memo, which recommended that the full board take a position opposing the restoration of the death penalty in New York State. Sotomayor served on the board from 1980 until she became a federal judge in New York in 1992.

“The death penalty is final; it eliminates all possibility of the reform of the offender,’’ the memo said, adding that capital punishment is disproportionately applied to minorities and the poor and is not an effective deterrent to crime.

Bill Burton, a White House spokesman, said Sotomayor's "involvement with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and its position on the reinstatement of New York's death penalty was fully disclosed to the Judiciary Committee.''

He added: "We will work diligently with the Senate to make sure that they have everything they need to confirm Judge Sotomayor swiftly and in time for her to participate in case selection at the Court this September.”

Cesar Perales, president of the legal defense fund, now called LatinoJustice PRLDEF, said Sotomayor’s critics are taking the memo out of context. He said it is a “fair reading” of the document to conclude that Sotomayor was anti-death penalty at the time, but he said the authors were only “recapitulating” arguments against capital punishment made by religious and civic groups.

Perales said the driving force behind the document was Joseph P. Fitzpatrick, a fellow board member and Jesuit priest who also signed it and is now deceased. He could not specify Sotomayor’s precise role.

The Supreme Court on which Sotomayor may serve has been increasingly divided over the death penalty in recent years. The justices last year upheld lethal injection, a method of execution used by nearly all states, but they have clashed over decisions rejecting the death penalty for child rapists and juveniles.

A White House spokeswoman did not return emails seeking comment.

By Paul Volpe  |  June 5, 2009; 1:55 PM ET
Categories:  Supreme Court  
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Comments

capital punishment is associated with evident racism in our society.Some even think that the death penalty is cruel and you know the rest..So what...Some of these people who think that sits on the S.Court..Should they be removed from the court?{rhetorical question}.My only concern about Sotomayor is how she applies the law..So far I have not seen anything that changes my support for her...

Posted by: Realistic2 | June 5, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

capital punishment is associated with evident racism in our society.Some even think that the death penalty is cruel and you know the rest..So what...Some of these people who think that sits on the S.Court..Should they be removed from the court?{rhetorical question}.My only concern about Sotomayor is how she applies the law..So far I have not seen anything that changes my support for her...

Posted by: Realistic2 | June 5, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

so liberals think capital punishment is racist...along with everything else they don't agree with.
But yet putting "planned parenthood" clinics in every "economically depressed" neighborhood in the country and forcing abortion down the throats of minorities is not racist at all is it?
Hypocrites.
You now have your token black man, you'll soon have your token hispanic...you can now feel better about yourselves at your country clubs where they aren't allowed.

Posted by: MICHAELB60 | June 5, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

If they actually confirm her, I think Ill have to go down to the Senate and vomit in front of every members office who votes for her... Regardless of party.

For once, why cant they nominate an American that doesn't consider race or gender when they interpret law?!?

Posted by: indep2 | June 5, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

It's rather astounding that so many Americans think that the reason more minorities receive the death penalty is because they are more deserving of it. Whereas, Anglos, the dominant race, are clearly less deserving of it, as are the wealthy and all those who can afford expensive attorneys to defend them. The facts bear this out. Just look at the stats. The same people who reason this way also tend to think that all people who disagree and see the "facts" differently are bleeding heart liberals, and worse. Prejudice and irrationality among Americans is still very much alive.

Posted by: andrewpatejr | June 5, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Conservatives are really stretching to find fault with Sotomayor. The death penalty is cruel and inhumane, it takes away the chance that the convicted will ever be proven innocent (which has happened in several cases), and it is very expensive - it's cheaper to house and feed a convict for life than it is to put him to death.

What's more, it's very unfair to allow euthanasia for convicted criminals and not allow it for terminally ill patients. The terminally ill deserve to die in dignity; the convicted who are sentenced to death deserve to live a long and miserable life behind bars.

Posted by: Kaelinda1 | June 5, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

A 28 year old memo is irrelevant. I said and did things 28 years ago that I would not do or say today. Lets stick with her decisions as a judge. Next someone is going to find out that she threw her doll on the floor when she was three and conclude that she throws temper tantrums.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | June 5, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

If you believe the death penalty is applied on a racial basis you should blame Liberals. Most Conservatives believe anybody guilty of murder should get the sentence.

Posted by: rpatoh | June 5, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Lets face it the libeals will do anything to get their slimy hands and total control over the US.
You liberals wouldn't know racism if it bit you in the ass; What would you call affirmative action. Please don't write telling how it evens up the playing field, because it does "not" all it does is lower the standards that this country used to operate on, affirmative action only lowers the scores from the quality to which people used to be able to accell to.

Posted by: rephoto | June 5, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

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