The Federalist Society
invited Michigan Supreme Justice Stephen J. Markman to speak on ‘Defense of Capital Punishment’ on Monday, November 23,
2009 on the Harrisburg Campus.
A reception preceded the lecture by Justice Markman in which he spoke on the purpose of capital punishment, its constitutionality, equal protection concerns surrounding the imposition of capital punishment, the deterrent impact, and the risk of executing innocent people.
Justice Markman stated that protecting the United States citizens is the first function of government and the reason for the establishment of capital punishment. He pointed out that violent crimes skyrocketed during the period of 1960-1980 when capital punishment was abolished and crimes have declined over the past 20 years when capital punishment has been intact. He said that he supports capital punishment because it is a more effective deterrent than lesser sanctions.
Justice Markman indicated that his support of capital punishment comes not from the morality of his faith or constitution, but rather out of his sense of justice. Although it cannot be determined exactly how many lives are saved by executing criminals who have committed first degree murder, Justice Markman asserted that it is certain a large number of people that have been saved.
He stated, “To impose any lesser sanctions, is to diminish the value of innocent life.”
Students asked questions at the close of the lecture, including inquiries about his feelings on capital punishment for minors and the mentally ill. Justice Markman responded by saying that was something the community ought to determine and it should be up to the legislature.
Justice Stephen Markman served as the Assistant Attorney General of the United States from 1985 to 1989 after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan. He also served as the Chief Counsel of the United States Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution. Prior to being appointed as the 103rd Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Justice Maskman served as a Judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals.