TIME Crime

Why the End of Capital Punishment Is Near

The lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif. on Sept. 21, 2010.
Eric Risberg—AP The lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif. on Sept. 21, 2010.

Bungled executions. Backlogged courts. And three more reasons the modern death penalty is a failed experiment

The case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev absorbed Americans as no death-penalty drama has in years. The saga of his crime and punishment began with the shocking bloodbath at the 2013 Boston Marathon, continued through the televised manhunt that paralyzed a major city and culminated in the death sentence handed down by a federal jury on May 15 after a two-phase trial…

Read the full story here.

This appears in the June 08, 2015 issue of TIME.

David Carr’s Grand Caper

The reporter, who died Thursday, was a Raymond Carver character plopped into the New York Times’ Edith Wharton world

David Carr was the most unlikely New York Times superstar. It’s a great newspaper, no doubt about it, but let’s face it: The Times is the sort of place known to employ people with two last names. Harrison Salisbury. Fox Butterfield. McCandlish Phillips. A paper, as the late Ben Bradlee used to say contemptuously, with “four f-cking dance critics.” It is said that the late R.W. Apple Jr. traveled with his personal pepper grinder in his luggage, lest he be trapped on assignment with improperly seasoned food.

Carr, the Times media columnist who died on the job Thursday at 58, suddenly and unexpectedly, was a reformed crack addict and street dealer with the faint gravel voice of a wino bumming a buck. In cold weather, he favored the sort of overcoat you could picture being passed out by missionaries from the back of a truck. Though he ordered only soft drinks, I can say no one looked more at home hunched over a dim-lit bar, the kind where Cutty Sark is a premium brand. He was a Raymond Carver character plopped into the Times’ Edith Wharton world.

A lot of people will point today to Carr’s intelligence and talent — and properly so. He was wonderful at translating the patter of media sales-talk into the argot of real life, a skill that requires a lot of brainpower. No one ever brushed past David’s BS detector mumbling “platform agnostic” or “digital first.”

MORE: Read TIME’s Review of Carr’s Memoir, The Night of the Gun

And he had that noted quality of a fine mind: the ability to grasp two competing ideas simultaneously. He understood — and embraced — the tidal power of social media without losing sight of virtues from the past. David was a reporter, not a pundit; he explained rather than preached, and almost uniquely he saw the entire horizon. It wasn’t just journalism that was being shattered and remade on his watch. It was every form of human communication.

I am happy to pay tribute to his brains and gifts, but I want to put in a word also for his enthusiastic work ethic. Journalism is a young person’s game; the years between 22 and 30 are like the trampling scrum outside Walmart on Black Friday. David Carr spent those years spiraling down into a pit most of us are lucky never to see. He wrote about it in his memoir, The Night of the Gun. It’s worth reading even after I give away the most shocking moment: the night David strapped his infant twins into their car seats and drove to a crack house, where he left them at the curb while he went inside to get high.

It’s no small thing to claw a path upward from that low point to a star-turn as the face of the New York Times — which was Carr’s role in the acclaimed documentary Page One. The hidden ingredient was stupendous effort. The man did his homework. If a trench needed digging, he grabbed a shovel. In his early years at the Times, David wrote for every page, every section, uncomplainingly. He became the paper’s biggest cheerleader and one of its most original voices. The bosses wanted a blog — he blogged the Oscars. The bosses wanted video — he shambled in front of a handheld camera. The bosses wanted live events — he slipped on a necktie and made himself an emcee.

MORE: David Carr, Influential New York Times Columnist, Has Died at 58

Most of all, he covered his beat like a blanket, expanding the traditional role of the media critic to include every gust and swirl of the digital tempest. David was the John Reed of this particular revolution, documenting and participating at the same time. For many of his fans, Carr’s death was unbelievable because he was Tweeting and live-streaming right up to his final breath.

Was he his own favorite subject? Yes — but who could blame him? David was great copy, as the old newsmen say. Understanding the sinews of a good story, Carr relished the dramatic arc of his pit-to-peak biography.

But even at his most self-absorbed, he had a winning sense of wonder and gratitude for the way his life had turned out. David Carr believed in a God of second chances, and he accepted without question that he was among this God’s favorites. With his twins safely grown to young adulthood; with his beautiful wife and the daughter they had together; with his bully pulpit at the Times and his all-access pass to the glittering world of media and celebrity, David Carr was the Prodigal Son 10 times over. Feasting on the fatted calf of divine grace, every day was thanksgiving.

“The trick,” he once said, is to enjoy the second chance, “and hope the caper doesn’t end anytime soon.” He kept up his end of that equation, to the delight and profit of his readers and friends. And if the caper ended too soon for him and for us, it was a doozy while it lasted.

Read next: Remembering David Carr, Media Critic and Media Lover

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Why the Supreme Court is Set to Make History on Gay Marriage

The writing's been on the wall since the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down in 2013

The fight for same-sex marriage rights in the United States has reached its final round. On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments on whether state laws that ban these unions violate the constitution.

There’s not much question which way the decision will go: same-sex couples are going to prevail. The logic is plain:

In 2013, the court—the very same nine justices—struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The plaintiff was a lesbian spouse whose marriage was recognized under New York law. The court ruled that the Constitution bars the federal government from treating traditional marriages differently from same-sex marriages in states that legalize both.

Read more: How Gay Marriage Won

Now the court will apply the same reasoning to state laws. Does the constitution allow states to discriminate when Congress cannot? Can the 14 states that still ban same-sex unions refuse to recognize marriages lawfully performed in other states?

In other words: suppose that two couples lawfully married in, say, Utah both move to Ohio. Can the authorities in Ohio refuse to recognize one of the marriages—the two-husband marriage—while recognizing the union of husband and wife?

Justice Anthony Kennedy, the deciding vote on same-sex marriage in 2013, left no doubt about his thinking in his majority opinion: “No legitimate purpose” exists to justify a law “to disparage and injure” same-sex couples. And that’s what these laws do, he concluded. DOMA “instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others.”

Lower federal courts pretty clearly agree on this point. Even some of the most conservative courts of appeal have ruled that state laws against same-sex marriage are in conflict with the 2013 ruling. Earlier this term, the Supreme Court declined to take up the issue, for the simple reason that the lower court judges were all arriving at the same decision. Where there was no dispute, the high court saw no need to step in.

But last fall, a panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals—with jurisdiction over Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee—upheld state laws against same-sex marriages. With lower courts now in conflict, the Supremes have a role to play.

Given Kennedy’s long history as a defender of the dignity and rights of homosexuals, it defies belief to think that he has been sitting in Washington, watching couples in one state after another gain the freedom to wed, if he doesn’t in fact believe that freedom exists. For the Court to uphold the 6th Circuit opinion, Kennedy would have to join the court’s conservatives in a ruling that would potentially invalidate thousands of marriages across the country.

Polls now show that a majority of Americans believe in the right to marry. The shift of public and judicial opinion on this issue in a single generation has been startling. But it is less controversial with each passing day.

Now the issue will be resolved once and for all.

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