It really depends, doesn’t it? Consider this from Monday’s edition of The New York Times:
“The existence of the death penalty in this country is virtually an illusion,” [Rehnquist] declared in a typical dissent in 1981, complaining that “virtually nothing happens except endlessly drawn-out legal proceedings.” No other member of the court joined him.
But eventually not only a majority of the court but Congress as well — due in part to Chief Justice Rehnquist’s advocacy from his platform as head of the Judicial Conference of the United States, the judiciary’s policy-making arm — agreed that there were too many procedural obstacles blocking states from carrying out the death penalty. Through the interaction of legislation and Supreme Court decisions, the pace of executions quickened sharply through the 1990’s.
At least the cardinal could have qualified his words somewhat, crediting Rehnquist instead for being “a tireless champion of some life” or “indisputably innocent life” or “a tireless champion of the right of unwanted babies to have lives that could someday lead them to kill others and be executed for it by lethal injection ... or not.”