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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

Belarus on its own way towards capital punishment ban

Belarus will seek its own way to cancel capital punishment. The statement was made by Nikolai Samoseiko, Chairman of the Legislation and Court Affairs Commission of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly, head of the parliamentary ad hoc group on capital punishment matters, on 22 February.

The MP said that the ad hoc group is supposed to find Belarus' indigenous way to deal with the capital punishment ban due to the country's geopolitical location. On the one side Belarus is bordered by the European Union where all the countries have banned capital punishment. On the other side there is China, the leader in the number of issued death penalties, and Russia which has vetoed capital punishment but the general public is ambiguous about it.

According to the MP, Belarus is now ripe to discuss whether it needs death penalties. There are strong pro and con arguments. In particular, those in favor believe that the possibility of death penalty can prevent crimes while those who oppose capital punishment point out that courts can make errors. There can be no winners in this dispute because the decision will be made depending on the political will, opinion of the general public, the legal base, believes Nikolai Samoseiko.

He stressed that the number of death penalty verdicts has been greatly reduced. While in 1998 the number stood at 47, in 2008 and 2009 it made up 2 per annum. In addition, the number of life sentences pronounced lately is declining. It is an objective process because the number of crimes punishable by death is falling. The parliamentarian also reminded that according to the Constitution capital punishment in Belarus is a temporary measure.

Asked when the bill to ban capital punishment may be ready, Nikolai Samoseiko did not mention specific dates. He added it would be incorrect to say that the decision to ban death penalty will be introduced as a bill. In line with a ruling of the Constitutional Court the decision can be made either by the president or the parliament.

A session of the ad hoc group on capital punishment matters of the House of Representatives took place on 22 February. Members of the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic discussed a draft schedule for the ad hoc group operation for the next six months. They plan to use the time to scrutinize statistics, review court practices, study law enforcement practices in Russia and Ukraine, visit detention facilities where life sentence convicts serve their term. A preliminary agreement has been reached to hold an international seminar in Minsk to discuss capital punishment practices in association with PACE members.

Source: The National Center of Legal Information of the Republic of Belarus, Feb. 22, 2010

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