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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…

Pakistan Braces for Violence After Execution of Governor’s Killer

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The authorities in Pakistan were bracing for the possibility of violence and escalating protests on Monday after the execution of the killer of Salmaan Taseer, a governor who had campaigned for changes in the country’s blasphemy laws.

Mr. Taseer’s assassin, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, was hanged at 4:30 a.m. on Monday at the Adiala Jail, a high-security prison in Rawalpindi, adjacent to Islamabad, the capital. Security forces were put on high alert in major cities across the country.

Supporters had begun gathering to view Mr. Qadri’s body at his home in Rawalpindi. By early afternoon, the expressway connecting Islamabad and Rawalpindi was blocked by protests.

In the eastern city of Lahore, large police contingents were deployed to thwart demonstrations. Some markets had closed in the southwestern city of Karachi, where religious groups have a sizable presence, and the police had been sent to others. Protests were also reported in smaller cities.

Mr. Qadri, a former police security guard, had confessed to assassinating Mr. Taseer, whom he accused of blasphemy, by shooting him 27 times in the back in January 2011. He was sentenced to death that year and filed an appeal. In October 2015, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence; last week, a request for mercy he had made to President Mamnoon Hussain was rejected.

Pakistani officials’ concerns about the potential for violence grew as Mr. Hussain considered Mr. Qadri’s mercy request. In late February, security was bolstered for the president, and some members of his family were moved from his home city, Karachi, to the official presidential residence in Islamabad. Last week, two drivers in his convoy were taken into custody in Lahore after they were found to be driving slower than the standard speed, in violation of security rules.

Mr. Taseer, a secular politician who was the governor of Punjab Province at the time of his assassination, had vociferously campaigned for changes in the blasphemy laws, which he, like other critics, said had been used to persecute religious minorities. But for a large section of Pakistani society, the mere suggestion of changing the laws amounts to a capital crime.

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Source: The New York Times, Feb 29, 2016

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