Now, there are those who will undoubtedly defend the actions on the majority on legal technical grounds. There are those who will argue that there is no authoritative Church teaching directing how to vote on these kinds of procedural grounds. But this is surely misguided. While the Church does not claim that the death penalty is always and everywhere wrong (like abortion), it does carve out conditions under the death penalty may and may not be immoral, namely, that there must be no other way to defend society (see here, here, here, here, and here for more). No death penalty in the United States meets this strict condition, and hence Catholics are obliged to oppose capital punishment in this country. In the present case, it would seem that "erring on the side of life" calls for granting a new trial.
And anyway, as Patti Waldmeir in the Financial Times wrote, this is part of a more general trend:
"The recent addition of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, the Bush appointees, might have substantially shifted the balance of power on the court on death penalty issues, experts said. Before their appointment, the court had done much to chip away at the edifice of the death penalty by insisting on improvements in legal representation for capital defendants and ruling unconstitutional the application of capital punishment to juveniles and the mentally retarded."Thanks to the Catholics, we now have a much more pro-death penalty Supreme Court. Can we please, please, please have some moral consistency?