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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…

Utah: Death penalty bill would include fatal child trafficking

Utah's House of Representatives
Utah's House of Representatives
Salt Lake City — (KUTV) A new death penalty bill is making its way through the Utah Legislature.

Rep. Paul Ray, who made waves last year with his successful bill reinstating the firing squad, is sponsoring House Bill 136. It would make aggravated human trafficking a capital offense if a child dies in the process of being trafficked for forced labor or sex.

"If we really want a deterrent to it, you have to take this step," Ray told 2News.

Ray's bill would open the death penalty to anyone who was involved in trafficking that child - not just the person responsible for the child's death.

"Whether you're the one that abducted the child or coerced the child or you're the one that was pimping the child at the time, you're potentially going to face the death penalty," said Ray.

It's unclear how many times - if any - a child trafficking death has actually happened in Utah. Ray couldn't cite a case, and the Utah Attorney General's office said it's hard to know because of the many ways trafficking can be prosecuted.

Ray's bill has been read on the House floor and has been referred to the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. But it's also attracting some stiff opposition.

"It's too bad that he's deciding to go in this direction," said Marina Lowe of the ACLU of Utah. "I think that increasingly there's a lot of momentum around the idea of pulling back on the death penalty and not expanding."

The ACLU opposes the death penalty anyway, but also questions whether this particular bill - if passed - could still stand.

"Traditionally, the Supreme Court has reserved the death penalty, capital punishment, only for the most heinous of crimes," Lowe said. "Something short of murder, I think, it's questionable whether that would be appropriate."

Nine inmates are currently on death row in Utah. The state hasn't executed anyone since 2010, and none are scheduled as of now, according to the Utah Department of Corrections.

Source: 2KUTV.com, Daniel Woodruff, January 29, 2016

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