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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…

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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