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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Utah will keep the death penalty after all

Utah Senate
An unexpectedly potent push to abolish Utah’s death penalty came up short this week, and the practice remained on the books as the state’s legislative session wrapped up.

A bill that would have scrapped capital punishment in cherry-red Utah made it through the Utah state Senate earlier this month and, earlier this week, also passed a key committee in the state’s House of Representatives. It was a surprisingly strong showing for such a proposal given that just last year, Utah lawmakers took an unusual step and expanded the state’s death penalty.

But with the legislative session ending Thursday night, legislators in the state House had a limited window to vote on the proposal. Ultimately, the bill was kicked back to the state Senate without a vote after the state senator who sponsored it determined it didn’t have the votes yet and that he needed more time to convince people who were on the fence.

“I can’t say that the bill is totally a victim of the clock, but you know, if we had another week or so, it would be interesting to see what would have happened,” Utah state Sen. Steve Urquhart (R) told the Associated Press.

It was unclear what would have happened if the state House approved the bill, as Gov. Gary. R. Herbert (R) remains a supporter of the death penalty. However, earlier this month a spokesman for Herbert reiterated that support and added that the governor “has concerns over the excessive length of time it often takes from the date of conviction to the actual punishment.”

The support from lawmakers in Utah showed that it is “unmistakable that an increasing number of conservative Republicans in Utah, like those in Nebraska, are realizing that the death penalty is irrevocably broken,” Marc Hyden, national advocacy coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said in a statement. He added: “Conservatives are increasingly taking the lead to end the death penalty precisely because of our conservative principles.”

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Source: The Washington Post, Mark Berman, March 11, 2016

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