- This week, Justice Sotomayor wrote her first majority opinion in a death-penalty case, taking just ten pages to explain why Florida’s death-sentencing procedures are out of whack with the jury-trial guarantee in the Sixth Amendment. The vote was 8-to-1, with only Justice Samuel Alito in dissent. In nearly every state that executes criminals, the decision to sentence a convicted murderer to death lies with the jury. But in Florida, a hybrid sentencing scheme has given judges the final word. While juries are asked to issue an “advisory sentence” by a majority vote, and their recommendations must be given “great weight”, presiding judges are empowered to adjust the sentence based on their own assessments of the “aggravating and mitigating factors”.Death-row inmates in Alabama and Delaware, the only other states that have not required jury sentences, may likewise see some promise in Supreme court’s mandate.
- SINCE the terrorist attacks in Paris in November, the French president, François Hollande, has taken a hard line on national security.But now Mr Hollande wants to change the French constitution to make it possible to revoke the dual citizenship of convicted terrorists, even if they were born in France.Stripping terrorists of their citizenship is tempting for governments and satisfying for voters. It allays concerns that jihadists may recruit and radicalise susceptible inmates while in prison, or that they might one day again roam France and wreak havoc. The symbolism—that a person waging war against France is no longer French—is politically popular: three-quarters of French people support Mr Hollande’s proposal, according to a recent poll.Yet many on France’s left see it differently. They say that the planned law could foment radicalisation by sending the message to dual-citizen Muslims that they are less French than the rest of society and, by creating unequal categories of citizenship, betray the cherished “egalité” enshrined in France’s constitution.Mr Hollande’s government is not the first to propose such a law. Similar rules came into force last month in Australia; Britain has had much harsher laws since 2013. One country unlikely to see such a law any time soon is America, where it is impossible to be stripped of citizenship unless it was fraudulently acquired.
- Half of all cars sold in Europe are diesels. But diesel engines have a dirty secret that Europe has been slow to recognize and control. Namely, they emit far higher levels of other polluting gases such as non-methane organic gases (NMOG) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) than petrol engines. Both of these are more harmful to respiratory health than CO2 and are the cause of a large number of premature deaths—perhaps 58,000 a year in America alone—one study suggests.In the United States, average fleet standards for NMOG and NOx emissions have been consistently tougher than in Europe (see chart). Diesels account for only 5% of all car sales.The federal government’s Tier 2 and Tier 3 emission standards are scheduled to coincide with the state of California’s stringent LEV III standards in 2016, the strictest in the world.Europe’s diesel-engine manufacturers have complained that it will be hard to meet EU standards, but it will be far harder to meet the stricter US rules.
- German and Swedish eagerness to welcome so many refugees has gradually been worn down. Now the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne and other German cities may have buried it for good.That night, gangs of young men, mainly asylum-seekers, formed rings around women outside Cologne station and then robbed and sexually assaulted them. More than 600 women reported to the police that they had been victimised.Such fears, though overblown, are not absurd, and will not be allayed by pointing out that the alleged attackers in Cologne so far identified are mostly Moroccan or Algerian, not Syrian.There really is a cultural gulf between rich, liberal, secular Europe and some of the countries from which recent migrants come. Pew poll of Muslims around the world makes sobering reading. More than 90% of Tunisians and Moroccans believe that a wife should always obey her husband.
- Rather than succumbing to moral panic, Europe needs to work out how to manage the flow of refugees and help them assimilate. A good place to start would be to insist that they obey the law. Police in Cologne clearly failed to take on the harassers. Perhaps they did not recognise what was going on quickly enough, or were afraid of being accused of racism.Security cameras in public places would make it easier to convict those who hide in crowds—Germans should overcome their queasiness about such surveillance.When it comes to assimilating new arrivals, Europe could learn a thing or two from America, which has a better record in this regard. It is not “culturally imperialist” to teach migrants that they must respect both the law and local norms such as tolerance and sexual equality. And it is essential to make it as easy as possible for them to work.