Suffice it to say, Justice O'Connor is a huge mystery to most women of my generation. How could someone who blew open doors for generations of women after her show so little empathy to female victims of violence in the 2000 case of United States v. Morrison, for instance, where she joined with the court's conservatives to invalidate the Violence Against Women Act, or to teenagers facing the death penalty in Roper v. Simmons last fall?On that last question, let me offer this passage from O'Connor's dissenting opinion:
Christopher Simmons’ murder of Shirley Crook was premeditated, wanton, and cruel in the extreme. Well before he committed this crime, Simmons declared that he wanted to kill someone. On several occasions, he discussed with two friends (ages 15 and 16) his plan to burglarize a house and to murder the victim by tying the victim up and pushing him from a bridge. Simmons said they could "'get away with it'" because they were minors. In accord with this plan, Simmons and his 15-year-old accomplice broke into Mrs. Crook’s home in the middle of the night, forced her from her bed, bound her, and drove her to a state park. There, they walked her to a railroad trestle spanning a river, “hog-tied” her with electrical cable, bound her face completely with duct tape, and pushed her, still alive, from the trestle. She drowned in the water below. One can scarcely imagine the terror that this woman must have suffered throughout the ordeal leading to her death.I read plenty of empathy there. Simmons was 17 when he did these things, and the jury that condemned him to death was allowed to take his youth into account as one of the factors. It just wasn't enough in his case. [ADDED: And shouldn't this count as "empathy to female victims of violence," even though it's not in the official "Violence Against Women" case?]
But why are we demanding extra empathy from women in the first place? Is this supposed to be a feminist critique of O'Connor? I have a feminist critique for anyone who wants to see a special women's version of the law. Lithwick grudgingly and mushily offers some good words for O'Connor in the end -- even as she identifies Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the better woman. But Lithwick's overall message is clear:
Women are supposed to be liberals.