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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 -…

Legislators attempt to repeal death penalty in South Dakota

Custer State Park, South Dakota
Custer State Park, South Dakota
2 dozen state legislators have sponsored a bill to repeal South Dakota's death penalty.

Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-Vermillion, a retired circuit court judge, and Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, serve as the prime sponsors on Senate Bill 94 to strike the death penalty from state law. 

The bipartisan bill is sponsored by a total of 15 Democrats and 9 Republicans.

A Class A felony is currently the only capital offense in South Dakota and 18 people have been executed since South Dakota became a state in 1877, according to the state Department of Corrections.

The most recent executions in the state occurred in Oct. 2012, when Eric Robert and Donald Moeller were executed in Sioux Falls by lethal injection. 

Robert was executed for the homicide of Senior Correctional Officer Ron Johnson while Moeller received a lethal injection for the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in 1990. 

There are currently 3 South Dakota inmates who have been sentenced to death.

If approved, the bill would eliminate capital punishment for the law, but Class A felons would no longer be eligible for parole. 

The bill would also strike sections 3 and 4 of the law, which offer instructions to jurors in cases where the death penalty may be authorized.

The bill, which was introduced Tuesday, was referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee, and if approved, South Dakota would become the 20th state to abolish the death penalty.

A similar bill, 2015's Senate Bill 121, was deferred by the Senate State Affairs Committee in a 7-2 vote.

Source: Grand Forks Herald, Januarty 29, 2016

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