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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 -…

Scalia cast key vote in Oklahoma death penalty case

The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a reliable conservative vote on any number of topics the court took up during his 30-year tenure, including a case last year dealing with Oklahoma's death penalty.

Scalia died Saturday at a ranch resort in west Texas, the San Antonio Express News reports.

In 2015, Scalia was 1 of 5 justices who sided with Oklahoma in Glossip v. Gross, in which attorneys for three Oklahoma death row inmates argued that the sedative the state used in its execution protocol could lead to an unconstitutional level of pain before death.

The court rejected that argument by a 5-4 vote. 

Writing in a concurrent opinion, Scalia was characteristically colorful, taking Justice Stephen Breyer to task for arguing that capital punishment ought to be ended entirely. 

Breyer's dissenting opinion was, Scalia wrote, "full of internal contradictions and (it must be said) gobbledy-gook."

"A vocal minority of the Court, waving over their heads a ream of the most recent abolitionist studies (a superabundant genre) as though they have discovered the lost folios of Shakespeare, insist that now, at long last, the death penalty must be abolished for good. Mind you, not once in the history of the American republic has this Court ever suggested that the death penalty is categorically impermissible."

Source: The Oklahoman, Feb. 14, 2016

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