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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Arkansas Court Upends Death Penalty

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s death penalty law on Friday, faulting a provision that permitted the Corrections Department to select the fatal drugs used in an execution.

The court ruled 5 to 2 that the Legislature must set the quantity and type of drugs in a lethal injection. The 2009 law left those decisions to the director of the Corrections Department. The court sided with 10 death row inmates who challenged the law’s constitutionality.

Prison officials across the nation are grappling with a shortage of an anesthetic called sodium thiopental that is one of three drugs used in a lethal injection. The only American company that manufactured the drug stopped producing it in 2010, saying the active ingredient had become difficult to obtain.

Arkansas does not have any doses of the drug left, and its law does not specify whether a substitute is allowed.

The 37 inmates on the state’s death row will not be executed until the Legislature responds to the ruling, said Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Corrections Department. But, she said, “we still have a responsibility to execute these inmates.”


Source: The New York Times, June 22, 2012

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