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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

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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