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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…

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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