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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…

Arizona death row inmates asking state to not use a paralytic in executions

Arizona's death chamber
Arizona's death chamber
ARIZONA - Arizona death row inmates are asking the state to not use a paralyzing drug in their executions -- so witnesses can see them suffer.

The state said they're trying to create a "spectacle" and have no First Amendment right to "go viral."

The death row inmates, along with First Amendment organizations, are challenging the state's execution methods and attempting to get rid of one of the steps in the death penalty process.

The state of Arizona shot back at its death row inmates who challenged the state's use of paralytics in executions and are arguing that people have a constitutional right to see what's actually going on when someone is executed, Buzzfeed News reported Wednesday.

The state's method includes a three-drug protocol that is supposed to sedate and paralyze the person before killing them.

Death row inmates and a coalition of First Amendment organizations are arguing that the paralytic agent only prevents people from seeing the pain the inmates may experience and effectively undermines the purpose of witnesses.

"The press, the prisoners and the people of Arizona have a right to know whether Arizona's execution process subjects prisoners to intense physical pain, and the use of a paralytic agent is just as effective in preventing the disclosure of that fact as if the execution occurred without any public witness at all."

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich's office said last week that the First Amendment does not protect the right of the inmate to "die in what they speculate will be pain and distress, as long as people can watch."

"The First Amendment does not protect the right to create a spectacle and go viral," the statement said.

The state said inmates were trying to create "a spectacle with the objective of swaying public opinion and ultimately abolishing the death penalty."

Attorney David Weinzweig, who wrote the response for the state, said the department has been "forced" to change the drug protocols it uses in response to opponents of the death penalty. The response said people "wage guerilla warfare" to stop the state from "acquiring court-approved chemicals."

Arizona was forced to stop using its two-drug protocol after the killing of an inmate in 2014 took nearly two hours.

Source: The Hill, KPNX, Feb. 24, 2016

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