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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

Georgia to execute Joshua Bishop

Joshua Bishop
Joshua Bishop
ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia is preparing to execute a death row inmate convicted of beating another man to death in 1994.

Joshua Bishop is scheduled to die at 7 p.m. Thursday at the state prison in Jackson by injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital. The 41-year-old inmate was convicted in the June 1994 killing of Leverett Morrison in Milledgeville.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles held a clemency hearing for Bishop Wednesday and on Thursday morning issued an order denying clemency. As is its custom, the board did not provide any reason for its denial, saying only that its members reviewed and considered the facts and circumstances in the case.

The parole board is the only entity in Georgia authorized to commute a death sentence.

Bishop also has a challenge pending in the courts. A Superior Court judge in Butts County, where Georgia's death row is located, on Tuesday rejected that challenge. Bishop's lawyers have appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Bishop spent June 19, 1994, drinking and using drugs with Morrison and a third man, Mark Braxley. They drank at a bar that evening and then went to Braxley's trailer, where they continued to drink and use drugs.

Morrison fell asleep and Braxley decided he wanted to take Morrison's Jeep to visit his girlfriend and instructed Bishop to "get them keys," the clemency petition says. Morrison woke up as Bishop was trying to take his keys from his pocket, and Bishop hit him over the head with a piece of a closet rod to knock him out, the petition says.

Bishop told investigators he and Braxley both beat Morrison and, once they realized he was dead, they dumped his body between two trash bins and burned his Jeep.

While in police custody, Bishop told investigators he and Braxley also had killed another man, Ricky Willis, about two weeks earlier, also at Braxley's trailer. Bishop told police he repeatedly punched Willis after Willis bragged he had sexually assaulted Bishop's mother and then Braxley cut Willis' throat, killing him.

Bishop and Braxley were both charged with murder and armed robbery in Morrison's death. After a trial, a jury convicted Bishop and sentenced him to die. Braxley pleaded guilty and got life in prison. He's been denied parole twice and will next be eligible for consideration next year.

While Bishop confessed to his involvement in both killings, his lawyers argue that Braxley, who was 36 at the time, was the instigator and exerted his influence over Bishop, who was 19.

Bishop's lawyers also have said he had an extremely rough childhood, with a mother who constantly drank and used drugs and had a weakness for abusive men who beat her and her sons. He bounced between foster families and group homes and was homeless at times, they said.

Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee, whose office investigated the killings of Morrison and Willis, said the slayings were very violent and that he believes Bishop was the most aggressive. Massee said he also met this week with two daughters and a son of Morrison, who said they want Bishop to be executed.

Source: The Associated Press, March 31, 2016

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