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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…

Florida Supreme Court halts Mark James Asay's execution

Mark James Asay
Mark James Asay
The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the execution of Mark James Asay, just hours after hearing oral arguments in his case.

Asay, convicted in 1987 of 2 Jacksonville murders, was scheduled to be executed March 17. But a January ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hurst vs. Florida threw the state's death penalty into chaos.

Arguing before the state court Wednesday morning, Asay's lawyer, Martin McClain, invoked Hurst, saying that the problems raised by the U.S. Supreme Court in its ruling directly relate to Asay's case.

Asay, like the other residents on Florida's death row in Raiford, Fla., was convicted of his crimes by a unanimous jury but sentenced to death by the judge on the jury's recommendation. The Hurst ruling said that the juries must make the final decision on death sentences.

McClain -- who was also the lawyer for Michael Ray Lambrix and successfully stayed his execution last month -- argued that suggests the jury's verdict should be unanimous. 

In Asay's case, the jury recommendation came on a 9-3 vote.

The Florida Supreme Court's unanimous ruling Wednesday doesn't say anything about the merits of Asay's case. It simply stops the execution, which was ordered by Gov. Rick Scott prior to the Hurst ruling.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, March 2, 2016

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