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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…

Attempt To End Death Penalty In South Dakota Fails

South Dakota
South Dakota
A bill to end the death penalty in South Dakota failed in the state legislature.

State Senator Art Rusch, who spent many years as a prosecutor and circuit judge, brought Senate Bill 94 to the House State Affairs Committee Wednesday.

Testimony on both sides was often emotional. Lynnette Johnson of Sioux Falls lost her husband on his 63rd birthday in 2011. Ronald "RJ" Johnson was attacked and killed during an escape attempt by 1 men serving life prison terms. Johnson's widow is opposed to repealing executions in the state.

Attorney General Marty Jackley says he's aware of the strong feelings for and against executions in the state. He says his job is to protect innocent lives in South Dakota.

"And unfortunately, in our society there are just some individuals that are so dangerous, so vile, that in order to protect innocent life, you might have to take a life," Jackley says.

The State Affairs Committee defeated a "do pass" motion on the measure; members then deferred Senate Bill 94 to the 41st Legislative Day.

Source: sdpb.org, Feb. 11, 2016


Senate committee rejects measure to repeal death penalty

A Senate committee has defeated a measure that would repeal the death penalty in South Dakota.

The Senate State Affairs committee voted 7-2 on Wednesday against the plan.

Republican Sen. Arthur Rusch, a former judge, is the measure's Senate sponsor. He says the practice overburdens counties and traumatizes jurors and court personnel.

Rusch told the committee that he has personally prosecuted a death penalty case and has seen the damaging effects firsthand.

Rusch says death penalty cases are unfairly taxing on county governments and have long-term effects on those involved. He also says he doesn't believe the punishment is an effective deterrent on crime.

The committee voted down 2 measures to repeal or limit the death penalty last session.

Source: Associated Press, Feb. 11, 2016

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