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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 -…

Seventeen Australians on or facing death row a year after Bali Nine deaths

Figures show Australian federal police provided information for ‘potential death penalty situations’ 74 times in past year

In the year since Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran faced an Indonesian firing squad, their wishes appear to have been posthumously granted, at least in part – no more Australians have been added to the list of those potentially facing the death penalty.

But of at least 17 Australians still thought to be at risk of execution overseas, life on death row has become a grim reality for at least one man and the fate of another could be known within days.

On the anniversary of the execution of Chan and Sukumaran over a thwarted plan to smuggle heroin out of Bali, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not respond when asked how many Australians in jail could face capital punishment.

It is understood there has been no change to the number Dfat confirmed last year, with groups including the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties not aware of any new cases.

But, in the past year, the prospect of execution drew closer for a former Adelaide jockey given a suspended death sentence in China for smuggling ice.

And a verdict on another ice smuggling case in China, which will decide the fate of a young dual Australian and New Zealand citizen, could be just days away.

The two men are among as many as 11 Australians thought to be held over drug prosecutions in a single southern Chinese city, Guangzhou. The possibility of execution by lethal injection or firing squad looms for all of them.

In Malaysia, an Australian woman could be hanged if found guilty of drug smuggling. In Vietnam, a Sydney man faces the prospect of secret execution by lethal injection of locally manufactured chemicals of “unknown efficacy”, according to Amnesty International.

While the number of Australians on or facing death row held steady, the level of involvement by the Australian federal police in transnational investigations that could result in death penalties declined – but was still significant.

Figures provided to Guardian Australia show the AFP provided information for investigations known as “potential death penalty situations” 74 times in the past year.

Guardian Australia was told that information provided by the AFP could include criminal history or lack thereof in Australia, which may be used by the accused to bolster their defences. The AFP has faced prolonged criticism for its role in tipping off Indonesian authorities about the plot of the “Bali Nine”, which led to Chan and Sukumaran’s executions.

A Guangzhou customs official in 2014 cited growing cooperation with the AFP in recent years after a surge in drug arrests in the city involving Australians.

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Source; The Guardian, Joshua Robertson, April 282016

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