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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…

On death row 35 years, Texas inmate dies of natural causes

Typical death-row cell, Polunsky Unit, Texas
Typical death-row cell, Polunsky Unit, Texas
Texas prison officials say a man on death row for 35 years for a Houston robbery where 3 people were shot and killed has died of natural causes.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark says 60-year-old Max Soffar died Sunday at the infirmary at the Polunsky Unit prison, home of the state's male death row.

Soffar had said he was being treated for liver cancer.

He was condemned in 1981, a year after the slayings of 17-year-old Arden Alane Felsher, her 17-year-old boyfriend, Tommy Lee Temple, and 25-year-old Stephen Allen Sims, an assistant manager at a bowling alley that was being robbed.

Soffar was retried in 2006 and convicted again.

Only 6 of the some 250 condemned inmates in Texas have served more time than Soffar.

Source: Associated Press, April 25, 2016

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