UPDATE: Feingold is speaking now. He's voting no.
"I found Judge Alito's answers on the death penalty chilling.... He analyzes death penalty cases as a series of procedural hurdles...YET MORE: Here's the transcript of Feingold's statement. Here's the full quote (which I transcribed somewhat inaccurately at the end, causing some commenters to misinterpret him as wanting the judge to be biased!):
He left me with no assurance that he would not analyze these cases with his finger on the scales of justice.Judge Alito left me with no assurance that he would be able to review these cases without a weight on the scale in favor of the government."
I found Judge Alito’s answers to questions about the death penalty to be chilling. He focused almost entirely on procedures and deference to state courts, and didn’t appear to recognize the extremely weighty constitutional and legal rights involved in any case where a person’s life is at stake.
I was particularly troubled by his refusal to say that an individual who went through a procedurally perfect trial, but was later proven innocent, had a constitutional right not to be executed. The Constitution states that no one in this country will be deprived of life without due process of law. It is hard to even imagine how any process that would allow the execution of someone who is known to be innocent could satisfy that requirement of our Bill of Rights. I pressed Judge Alito on this topic but rather than answering the question directly or acknowledging how horrific the idea of executing an innocent person is, or even pointing to the House v. Bell case currently pending in the Supreme Court on a related issue, Judge Alito mechanically laid out the procedures a person would have to follow in state and federal court to raise an innocence claim, and the procedural barriers the person would have to surmount.
Judge Alito’s record and response suggest that he analyzes death penalty appeals as a series of procedural hurdles that inmates must overcome, rather than as a critical backstop to prevent grave miscarriages of justice. The Supreme Court plays a very unique role in death penalty cases, and Judge Alito left me with no assurance that he would be able to review these cases without a weight on the scale in favor of the government.
ANOTHER UPDATE: In the comments, I set out the key interchange (with Sen. Leahy) from the hearings that is the basis for Feingold's comment. I regard the comment as quite unfair. When did Alito refuse to address a situation where a person was proven innocent? When did Alito say that it's constitutionally acceptable to execute a man we KNOW is innocent? Where did he endorse the "horrific the idea of executing an innocent person"? It didn't happen! True, Alito emphasized the procedures that are required before a man can be executed, but he was never asked what would happen if we actually knew a man was innocent and yet the governor refused to pardon him. At that point would there be a right of action in federal court? Alito was not asked. To assert that he refused to address that situation is plainly unfair. It is demogogery of the sort I believed Feingold was above.