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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Connecticut death row case to test scope of repeal

The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed Thursday to hear death row inmate Eduardo Santiago’s request to extend the recent abolition of the death penalty to his own sentence, despite the bill’s iron-clad language restricting the repeal to new cases.

In April, the state legislature passed a repeal of the death penalty, but the legislation did not apply to those sentenced to death before the law was passed. Out of the 11 inmates currently on the state’s death row, five of them have already appealed to the Court regarding the validity of their sentences. Santiago’s death sentence was overturned in June because of withheld evidence, but he will have to face re-trial unless he can successfully argue that the legislature’s appeal should apply to him, said Mark Rademacher, his attorney. State legislators interviewed were split on how they think Santiago’s case will turn out, with pro-death penalty Republicans predicting he will escape his sentence and anti-death penalty Democrats expecting the appeal to fail.

Republican State Reps. David Labriola and Arthur O’Neill said they have no doubts about Santiago’s success in appealing to the Court. Labriola called the repeal’s “prospective” language, which aims it only at future cases, “disingenuous,” echoing the concerns of many death penalty advocates who feared last spring that a repeal would be used as grounds for the appeals of sentences regardless of its wording.

Both charged that the prospective language was a ploy on the part of repeal advocates designed to rally as many votes as possible, but State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, a Democrat from New Haven and one of the most outspoken proponents of repeal, responded that it was a political compromise necessary to ensure the success of the death penalty abolition movement.


Source: Yale Daily News, Sept. 18, 2012

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