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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 -…

U.S. judge rejects bid for new trial for Boston Marathon bomber

'Supermax' high-security prison, Florence, Colorado
'Supermax' high-security prison, Florence, Colorado
A U.S. judge rejected on Friday a request for a new trial for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, saying the issues his attorneys raised had been resolved prior to his trial last year.

Tsarnaev was sentenced last June to death by lethal injection for his role in the 2013 bomb attack, which killed three people and injured more than 260.

The judge also ordered Tsarnaev to pay more than $101 million in restitution to victims.

U.S. District Judge George O'Toole said the court had already resolved some factors Tsarnaev's attorneys raised in seeking a new trial, such as their argument that it was impossible to seat an impartial jury in Boston due to intense publicity surrounding the attack.

"There is no reason to think that if the trial had been moved to another district, the local media in that district would not also have given it attentive coverage," O'Toole wrote in his 37-page ruling.

He also noted that defense attorney Judith Clarke admitted in her opening statements that Tsarnaev, along with his older brother Tamerlan, carried out the attack, saying "It was him."

The defense had focused on trying to spare Tsarnaev the death penalty, rather than prove his innocence.

The judge also rejected defense arguments that a new trial was justified by a Supreme Court decision, reached two days after Tsarnaev's sentencing, that a U.S. law stiffening sentences for crimes committed while in possession of a gun was overly broad.

Tsarnaev, 22, is being held at the "Supermax" high-security prison in Florence, Colorado, while his attorneys appeal his death sentence.

He was last seen in public on June 24, when he said he was "sorry for the lives I have taken."

Legal wrangling over Tsarnaev's fate could play out for years or even decades. Just three of the 74 people sentenced to death in the United States for federal crimes since 1998 have been executed.

Source: Reuters, Scott Malone, January 16, 2016

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