We drove back with the death warrant. Justice Marshall was waiting for us when we got there. He signed the stay, and the court dissolved it in the morning. Spenkelink was executed.

Years later, I talked about that night with Justice Stevens. He had lost faith in the fairness of the death penalty, because no one paid the kind of attention that he had, and Justice Stewart had, and Justice Marshall had, that night long ago. When I asked him why he had changed, he told me that on this, as on so many questions, he had not changed at all. The court had.

— SUSAN ESTRICH, lawyer in Los Angeles and clerk from 1978 to 1979

Would someone please clarify the meaning or implication? A literal interpretation is wrong, because Justice Stevens says that 'he had not changed at all' but Ms Estrich said that he had lost faith, which means that Justice Stevens did change? Is there a contradiction here?

  • @snailboat on this refers to the death penalty, right, in the fairness of which Justice Stevens lost faith? So my confusion remains? – Accounting Dec 19 '14 at 9:57
  • What do you suppose the final line might mean? – snailplane Dec 19 '14 at 10:02
  • I'm surprised you didn't ask about "the kind of attention that he had", Law Area 51 Proposal - Co. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 19 '14 at 12:38
  • @TRomano Sorry, I don't understand why I should've asked about "the kind of attention that he had" ? – Accounting Dec 19 '14 at 13:42
  • @snailboat I wasn't sure. – Accounting Dec 19 '14 at 13:42

You can explain this apparent contradiction in the idea (it is not really a question about the language) as follows:

Justice Stevens believed in the fairness of the death penalty with the proviso that cases in which it was being applied be given close scrutiny. When the court began to give the green light to such cases with only cursory review, they began in effect to "rubber stamp" them, that is, to go through the motions of review, processing such cases in a pro forma manner. At that point, the death penalty ceased to be fair in his eyes. The change was to be found in the court's coming to treat such cases in a cavalier manner, not in his own views.

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