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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

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In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Zimbabwe: No executions under my watch, Mnangagwa

"The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights and a cold blooded and abhorrent killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice."

Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday said Zimbabwe will not see an official execution under his watch.

Mnangwagwa was addressing delegates at a function organised by the Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (ZACRO).

The meeting was held to observe the Anti-Death Penalty Day.

"I want to pronounce myself clearly that the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights and a cold blooded and abhorrent killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice," Mnangagwa said.

"Cases have been clinically documented where the death penalty actually incited capital crimes it was supposed to deter."

He added: "Since time immemorial the death penalty has been a contentious issue the world over.

"It's barbarism, sadism and inhumanity coupled with the inevitable fallibility of the human judgement on the part of those pronouncing the verdict is persuading an increasing number of governments both developed and developing to move away from the imposition of the death penalty."

Mnangagwa's strong position against the death penalty probably stems from the fact that he came within a whisker of being hanged by Ian Smith's regime during the liberation war, only to be saved by his age.

He said there have been numerous cases of miscarriage of justice that had been discovered way after capital punishment had been exercised.

"I take pride in the fact that Zimbabwe has also recently become a de facto abolitionist country given that we have not carried out any executions in the past 10 years and there is not a likelihood of that happening under the current circumstances," Mnangagwa said.

Zimbabwe's constitution, crafted under the coalition government and confirmed in a referendum last year, came short of abolishing capital punishment.

Section 48 (1) of the Constitution says every person has a right to life but section 48 (2) qualifies this by stating that a law may permit the death penalty to be imposed on a person convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances.

Section 48 (2) (c) further provides that the death penalty must not be imposed on a person who was less than 21 years old when the offence was committed and who is more than 70-years-old. Section 48 (2) (d) prohibits the death penalty on a woman.

According to Mnangagwa, the constitution also stipulates that the death penalty may not be imposed as a mandatory punishment and that convicted persons have a right to seek clemency from the President.

"In comparison with the Lancaster House constitution, the new constitution has reduced the number of capital crimes from three to one excluding treason," he said.

The Justice Minister also revealed that starting this week, he will seek cabinet authority to commute the sentences of 98 prisoners currently on death row to different levels of punishment.

"We have 98 inmates on death row including one female and I had bundled them into 1 group and approached cabinet to consider commuting their sentences either to life or to some other jail term.

"I lost that fight because I was asked to look at all these on a case by case basis. But after consultations and representations I was allowed to bring these cases in batches of 10.

"So I can tell you now that beginning this Tuesday when cabinet meets the first 10 cases will be argued and I am sure some will succeed some will not," said Mnangagwa adding that it is guaranteed that the woman will not be executed with her commuted sentence to be known after next week's cabinet meeting.

Source: New Zimbabwe, October 11, 2014

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