One Louisiana county accounts for half the state's death sentences - even though it has just 5 percent of the state's population and 5 percent of its homicides.
On Tuesday, Justice Stephen Breyer cited this fact about Caddo Parish, Louisiana, in a dissenting U.S. Supreme Court opinion arguing that the death penalty is unconstitutional. The "arbitrary" factor of geography, Breyer proposed, is a reason to think that the death sentence is cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.
Is Breyer right? Last June, in a case called Glossip v. Gross, Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, arguing that the death penalty was unconstitutional under all circumstances. In that opinion he also expressed concern that the accident of geography affects who gets a death sentence.
Tuesday's opinion, also joined by Ginsburg, was a dissent from the court's refusal to hear a capital case coming out of Caddo Parish. The opinion expands on the geography rationale in particular.