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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…

Frail Scots grandfather still held on death row in Pakistan under the country’s controversial blasphemy laws

THE family of a Scots grandfather held on death row in Pakistan for six years have called for Government action after a courtroom bid to free him collapsed last week.

Mohammad Asghar, 71, who is frail, blind and mentally ill, was convicted under the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.

His family in Edinburgh have been fighting for his death sentence to be lifted, which might allow him to be returned to Scotland.

However, at a hearing in Pakistan last week, prosecutors failed to appear.

His daughter Jasmine Rana yesterday told of her crushing disappointment and said she is terrified for both her father’s safety and health.

She said: “It’s so upsetting that it has come to nothing again. We’re back to waiting just because someone doesn’t turn up at court.

“All this time is getting wasted and in the meantime my dad is still in the same place.

“He has needed cataract surgery for over a year, he doesn’t get any exercise and he’s got no one to talk to.

“It feels like we’re just waiting around for bad news.

“Why did the Prime Minister say he would intervene two years ago? What has he done? Nothing.”

She accused the Government of failing the family by telling them to remain silent to protect behind the scenes efforts to release Mr Asghar.

But, she said, nothing has happened while her father languishes on death row.

“We were told to say nothing, remain silent, and let the officials talk to each other,” she said.

“We remained silent but can remain silent no longer. Words are easy but we need action and we need it now.

“Would he still be there if he was white? That is a question only David Cameron can answer but what do I think? No, he would not.”

Mr Asghar, a father of five, suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. He was jailed in 2010 after being accused of writing letters in which he claimed to be the prophet. The death sentence was handed down two years ago despite his lawyers’ claims he was mentally unfit to stand trial.

Lawyers were hopeful the new court hearing would finally begin a process that could see the threat of execution lifted. But the case did not proceed at all.

Mr Asghar remains in a secure hospital, held in isolation in a windowless room. His family have urged the Prime Minister to promise to protect liberal politicians who have called for a relaxation of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

Some have been assassinated and many more have been intimidated into silence.

Last week, a crowd of 100,000 zealots gathered for the funeral of religious assassin Mumtaz Qadri in Pakistan. He was executed for murdering one reformer. The former policeman gunned down Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, who had criticised the country’s blasphemy laws and voiced support for a Christian woman who had been convicted of the charge.

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Source: Daily Record, March 6, 2016

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