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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Firing squads, electrocution; options for Mississippi's death penalty

Mississippi Death Chamber
Mississippi Death Chamber
Attorney General Jim Hood outlined his legislative priorities Wednesday. During a news conference he outlined his focus on better laws for child victims and child trafficking. And when it came to the death penalty, he wants options so he can carry out the will of the court.

In possibly the most controversial initiative, Hood told reporters he wants to have alternatives to the death penalty if the drugs become unavailable or lethal injection itself was declared unconstitutional.

"In case somehow there is a lethal injection declaration that it's unconstitutional or something, we would have alternative means available in law such as nitrogen hypoxia. These are all alternatives, fallback positions such as execution by a firing squad," said Hood.

According to deathpenaltyinfo.org, 3 states have recently passed laws allowing for alternative execution methods if lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

Oklahoma's law, allows for the use of nitrogen gas asphyxiation. Tennessee allows for the use of the electric chair. Utah allows the firing squad to be used if the state cannot obtain lethal injection drugs 30 days before an execution.

Late Wednesday afternoon, ACLU of Mississippi released the following statement on the Attorney General's Legislative Agenda:

"The ACLU of Mississippi applauds Attorney General Hood's restorative justice efforts via creation of the re-entry pilot program, which would promote principles of restorative justice and rehabilitation. Mississippi must continue to evaluate its prison system to ensure that former offenders have a fair chance at living a crime-free life beyond bars. This will in turn reduce recidivism rates and decrease our prison population.

However, we strongly oppose his intent to exempt from the Public Records Act the identities of the state execution team as well as the lethal injection drug supplier. Citizens have a right to this public information. Too often, states have been allowed to conduct executions cloaked in secrecy and free of public and judicial scrutiny, to rely on drugs from unknown and untested sources, and to employ personnel of unknown and unverifiable qualifications - with disastrous results. This pattern should be unacceptable in a civilized society dedicated to transparency and the rule of law.

We vehemently oppose the articulated alternative barbaric means Attorney General Hood proposes. The American Civil Liberties Union believes the death penalty inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law. Furthermore, we believe that the state should not give itself the right to kill human beings - especially when it kills with premeditation and ceremony, in the name of the law or in the name of its people, and when it does so in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion."

Source: WDAM news, January 28, 2016

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