NEW VOICES: Retiring Federal Judge Condemns Death Penalty as Biased and Broken

Judge Boyce Martin took the occasion of his final death-penalty decision from the bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals to sharply criticize capital punishment in this country. While upholding the conviction and death sentence of the defendant, Harold Nichols, Judge Martin said, “I continue to condemn the use of the death penalty as an arbitrary, biased, and broken criminal justice tool.” He noted that the many years since Nichols’s conviction in 1990 have consumed “countless judicial hours, money, legal resources, and providing no closure for the families of the victims.” He added that resources spent on the death penalty could be better used for other programs: “The time, money, and energy spent trying to secure the death of this defendant would have been better spent improving this country’s mental-health and educational institutions, which may help prevent crimes such as the ones we are presented with today.” Judge Martin has served as a judge on the Sixth Circuit for more than three decades.

(Nichols v. Heidle, No. 06-6495, 6th Cir. (July 25, 2013), Martin, J., concurring). Nichols is from Tennessee. See New Voices and Costs.