Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 22 (2002)

Page:   Index   Previous  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  Next

Cite as: 536 U. S. 304 (2002)

Rehnquist, C. J., dissenting

ever, how the views of other countries regarding the punishment of their citizens provide any support for the Court's ultimate determination. While it is true that some of our prior opinions have looked to "the climate of international opinion," Coker, supra, at 596, n. 10, to reinforce a conclusion regarding evolving standards of decency, see Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U. S. 815, 830 (1988) (plurality opinion); Enmund, supra, at 796-797, n. 22; Trop v. Dulles, 356 U. S. 86, 102-103 (1958) (plurality opinion); we have since explicitly rejected the idea that the sentencing practices of other countries could "serve to establish the first Eighth Amendment prerequisite, that [a] practice is accepted among our people." Stanford, 492 U. S., at 369, n. 1 (emphasizing that "American conceptions of decency . . . are dispositive" (emphasis in original)).

Stanford's reasoning makes perfectly good sense, and the Court offers no basis to question it. For if it is evidence of a national consensus for which we are looking, then the viewpoints of other countries simply are not relevant. And nothing in Thompson, Enmund, Coker, or Trop suggests otherwise. Thompson, Enmund, and Coker rely only on the bare citation of international laws by the Trop plurality as authority to deem other countries' sentencing choices germane. But the Trop plurality—representing the view of only a minority of the Court—offered no explanation for its own citation, and there is no reason to resurrect this view given our sound rejection of the argument in Stanford.

To further buttress its appraisal of contemporary societal values, the Court marshals public opinion poll results and evidence that several professional organizations and religious groups have adopted official positions opposing the imposition of the death penalty upon mentally retarded offenders. See ante, at 316-317, n. 21 (citing Brief for American Psychological Association et al. as Amici Curiae; Brief for American Association on Mental Retardation et al. as Amici Curiae; noting that "representatives of widely diverse reli-


Page:   Index   Previous  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007