Sandra Day O'Connor is a retired United States Supreme Court justice. She served as an Associate Justice from her appointment in 1981 by Ronald Reagan until her retirement from the Court in 2006. She was the first woman to be appointed to the Court.
Prior to O'Connor's appointment to the Court, she was an elected official and judge in Arizona. On July 1, 2005, she announced her intention to retire effective upon the confirmation of a successor. Samuel Alito was nominated to take her seat in October 2005, and joined the Court on January 31, 2006.
O'Connor tended to approach each case narrowly without arguing for sweeping precedents. She most frequently sided with the court's conservative bloc, although in the latter years of her tenure, she was regarded as having the swing vote in many cases.
O'Connor was Chancellor of The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and currently serves on the board of trustees of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Several publications have named O'Connor among the most powerful women in the world. On August 12, 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States, by President Barack Obama.
Despite the encouraging and wonderful gains and the changes for women which have occurred in my lifetime, there is still room to advance and to promote correction of the remaining deficiencies and imbalances.
We hold that the reckless disregard for human life implicit in knowingly engaging in criminal activity known to carry a grave risk of death represents a highly culpable mental state that may be taken into account in making a capital sentencing judgment not inevitable, lethal result.