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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…

Wyoming to remain 1 of 5 states without hate crimes law; House votes down proposal to abolish death penalty

Wyoming will remain 1 of 5 states in the nation without a hate crimes law.

The state's House of Representatives handily voted down a bill Thursday that would have created extra penalties for violent crimes committed because of the victim's race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.

Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, sponsored the proposal that would have increased prison time for the bias-motivated offenses by 25 %.

He said there should be stronger punishments for these types of crimes because they are more "egregious" than typical violent felonies.

"They are, in essence, an assault against the entire community," he said.

The proposal needed a 2/3 majority vote for it to be introduced. But it was defeated with only 10 of the 60 members supporting it.

Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, was among those who opposed the measure.

He said the extra punishments are not needed. And he said proving that a crime has a bias component would be a difficult task for judges or juries.

"I would submit to you that a murder is a murder," he said. "And if you kill someone or maim them, the penalties are severe enough."

Death penalty abolishment fails

The proposal was one of several bills that the House rejected Thursday - the 2nd-to-last day for the introduction of new bills.

The House also voted down a proposal to abolish the death penalty in the state.

Bill sponsor Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, said this would save the state money on costly trials and appeals and prevent a scenario where an innocent person is executed.

"The vast majority of countries have abolished the death penalty," she said. "So whether it's for moral or religious reasons or financial reasons to the state or counties, let's eliminate the death penalty."

But Rep. Bill Pownall, R-Gillette, said the death penalty can be meaningful for the victims or their families.

"Don't forget the victims in all these cases," he said. "That is one thing I think we are lacking."

Source: Tribune Eagle, Feb. 11, 2016

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