The Supreme Court: Doomed Penalty

There has not been an execution in the U.S. in more than a year; last week the Supreme Court made it more likely that there will never be another.

In Illinois, as in many states, the jury in capital cases is given the responsibility of deciding the sentence, as well as guilt. Convicted of killing a Chicago policeman in 1959, William Witherspoon was sentenced to death by a jury that had been purged of anyone with "general objections" to capital punishment. By a 6-to-3 vote, the court ruled such a practice unconstitutional; Witherspoon...