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No Surprise, Sotomayor Is a 'No' on Execution

It was really no surprise that Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented in the lastest death penalty case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sotomayor expressed her views on it long before she made it to the highest court. In 1981, she signed an internal memo for an organization opposing the death penalty.

Conservatives jumped on it during her confirmation hearing in 2009, but of course that went nowhere. Now she's in the driver's seat, even if her colleagues don't see it.

'Rush to Execute'

In Irick v. Tennessee, the Supreme Court denied this week the last appeal of a 51-year-old man who raped and murdered a seven-year-old girl. Hours and a last meal later, Billy Ray Irick was dead.

Sotomayor washed her hands of it in classic fashion. In her lone dissent, she called it a "rush to execute."

"If the law permits this execution to go forward in spite of the horrific final minutes that Irick may well experience, then we have stopped being a civilized nation and accepted barbarism," she wrote.

Her problem was with the method of execution -- a cocktail of vecuronium bromide to paralyze Irick before the potassium chloride stopped his heart. She said the court was turning a blind eye to "several minutes of torturous pain on an inmate in its custody, while shrouding his suffering behind a veneer of paralysis."

Execution Objections

It was not her first vote against execution by lethal injection. She dissented in two death penalty cases in April.

But her first written opposition to capital punishment came out nearly three decades before she joined the Supreme Court. In a tell-tale memo for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, she opposed restoration of the death penalty in New York.

She said capital punishment was "associated with evident racism in our society," and that "the number of minorities and the poor executed or awaiting execution is out of proportion to their numbers in the population."

Different decade, different reason, same result. Sotomayor is not a fan of the death penalty.

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