As an Attorney, Death Penalty Enthusiast Ted Cruz Really Loved Describing Brutal Crimes

Illustration for article titled As an Attorney, Death Penalty Enthusiast Ted Cruz Really Loved Describing Brutal Crimes

Texas Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz has never exactly hidden his passion for the death penalty—it’s a love that speaks its name over and over whenever he talks in public. As the New York Times lays out today, his passion took a somewhat more unseemly form when he was a Supreme Court Clerk, where he seemed to take unusual relish in laying out the details of violent crimes.


Cruz has always been pro-death penalty and a staunch advocate for keeping the system churning along just as it currently kills people (except, as Mother Jones pointed out, in 2010, when as a private practice attorney, he represented a wrongfully convicted man who spent 14 years on death row). He may have gotten some of that from his father; Rafael Cruz has argued from the pulpit that God himself is pro-death penalty.

That enthusiasm made itself evident when he was clerking for Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist in 1996, the Times writes, and became known for his colorful briefs on death penalty appeals, which “often dwelled on the lurid details of murders that other clerks tended to summarize in order to quickly move to the legal merits of the case.”


That’s unusual for a dry, dispassionate SCOTUS brief, and really made old Ted stand out at the office, a fact he himself was not unaware of. Per the Times:

“I believe in the death penalty,” Mr. Cruz wrote in his book “A Time for Truth.” As he saw it, it was his duty to include all the details and “describe the brutal nature of the crime.”

“Liberal clerks would typically omit the facts; it was harder to jump on the moral high horse in defense of a depraved killer,” he wrote.

Cruz’s love of death began even before that, in fact, during a clerkship at federal appellate court in Virginia with Judge J. Michael Luttig. Luttig’s father was killed by a 17-year-old would-be carjacker named Napoleon Beazley in 1994. The horrible incident created a bond between Cruz and Luttig, who began working for the judge soon after. A very strong and slightly macabre bond, again, per the Times:

Mr. Cruz became devoted to Mr. Luttig, whom Mr. Cruz has described as “like a father to me.” During his clerkship, he presented his boss with a caricature of him and other clerks pulling a stagecoach driven by the judge. According to someone who saw the illustration, there was a graveyard behind them with headstones representing the number of people executed in their jurisdiction that year.


One thing we can say about Ted Cruz: the man’s character is consistent.

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Cruz in Freedom, New Hampshire, January 19, 2016. Photo via AP Images

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