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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…

India: Pune German Bakery case: Convict’s death penalty commuted to life term

Mirza Himayat Baig
Death sentence set aside for Mirza Himayat Baig
The Bombay high court on Thursday set aside the death sentence to Mirza Himayat Baig in the 2010 Pune German bakery blast case, acquitting him of all charges except two, for which he will serve a life sentence.

Baig’s life imprisonment was upheld under section 474 of the Indian Penal code for possession of forged documents intending to use it as genuine, and under 5 (B) of the explosives substance act for possession of explosives under suspicious circumstances.

A division bench comprising Justices N H Patil and S B Shukre had been hearing the prosecution’s arguments on a day-to-day basis since August this year, seeking confirmation of the death sentence awarded to Baig, the lone convict in the case.

Baig was arrested in September 2010 and convicted based on the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) investigations for the blast that killed 17 people and injured 58 people, including several foreign nationals. In 2013, a Pune court awarded the death penalty to Baig for his involvement. The case was then referred to the high court as per procedure to get the sentence ratified.

The special public prosecutor Raja Thakare urged the court to ratify the death sentence, but the defence counsel maintained that evidence against Baig had been fabricated by the investigating agencies.

Baig’s counsel, senior advocate Mehmood Pracaha, told the court that prosecution had been able to establish only some chunks of the ‘conspiracy’ and failed to link others to “establish the complete conspiracy”. 

Pracha further raised doubts on the explosive substance allegedly seized by the ATS from Baig and questioned the veracity of the CCTV footage produced in court. The video allegedly showed Indian Mujahideen founder Yasin Bhatkal, the alleged mastermind of the conspiracy, inside German Bakery on the day of the blast.

Source: Hindustan Times, March 17, 2016

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