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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 -…

Transplant Chief in China Denies Breaking Vow to Ban Prisoners’ Organs

BEIJING — A top Chinese health official has denied that the country’s new organ transplant system allows organs to be harvested from executed prisoners, saying that earlier comments he made suggesting that a loophole allowed the practice to continue had been misconstrued.

The official, Dr. Huang Jiefu, said his statements that prisoners were also citizens and therefore should be allowed to donate organs under the new rules had been meant “philosophically,” and he denied that the government was allowing it in practice.

“I never said that,” Dr. Huang said in an interview here last week. “It is a lie. It distorts my words. The context, the words are from a philosophical level.”

“As a doctor, we cannot reject the kindness and the conscience of the prisoners,” he added. “However, on a practical level, we cannot do that, to put them into the civilian donation.”

Dr. Huang’s earlier comments, reported in the official Chinese news media and cited in The New York Times, drew outrage from medical ethicists and human rights advocates, who have long criticized China’s practice of harvesting organs from death row inmates. 

They said the comments showed that China never really abandoned the policy, as Mr. Huang had promised it would last December, but instead had simply reclassified prisoners as citizens and continued to take their organs.


Source: The New York Times, Didi Kirsten Tatlow, November 25, 2015

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