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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…

Oklahoma Inmate On Death Row Dies Of Natural Causes

Sammy Van Woudenberg
Sammy Van Woudenberg
McALESTER, Oklahoma - The Oklahoma Department of Corrections says a prisoner on death row for a 1983 murder in Muskogee died over the weekend of natural causes at the state penitentiary in McAlester.

Following a trial in 1984, Sammy Van Woudenberg was sentenced to death for the strangulation death of Mark Berry of Durant in the Muskogee County jail.

Van Woudenberg was serving a life sentence out of Tulsa County for a 1972 murder when he escaped from prison in 1983. He was captured a month later and was taken to the Muskogee County jail, where he killed Berry.

Berry was in jail for stealing government property, but Van Woudenberg and two other men were convinced he was a snitch and strangled him with a wire, hung him in the shower and tried to make it look like a suicide.

Van Woudenberg and one other were sentenced to death. The third man got 35 years.

One man was executed, but in 2001 a judge decided Van Woudenberg couldn't be executed because he was mentally ill. The just said he could be executed if he got better, but that never happened.

Van Woudenberg was 64.

Source: newson6.com, March 8, 2016

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