American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Reason

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Thank-You from a Condemned Murderer

Letter of Bruce Callins to Justice Harry Blackmum
Bruce Callins to Harry A. Blackmun, [1994]
Holograph letter
Manuscript Division
Gift of Harry Blackmun, 1997 (232.2)

Shortly before his retirement in 1994, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun issued a dissent that expressed his dissatisfaction with the American system of capital punishment. In the case of Callins v. Collins he refused to "continue to coddle the Court's delusion that the desired level of fairness" had been achieved in death-penalty cases. He declared: "I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death." The condemned criminal, Bruce Callins, wrote this letter from death row to thank Blackmun for his action. The State of Texas executed Callins three years later.


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