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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 -…

South Carolina: No decision on death penalty in Charleston church shootings

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
The decision on whether the federal government will seek the death penalty against a white man charged in the shooting deaths of nine black parishioners at a Charleston church is now before U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, a prosecutor told a federal judge on Tuesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson told U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel that a recommendation from a Justice Department panel reviewing the case is now on Lynch's desk. But he said he did not know when a decision would be made.

"It's obviously a very important decision and one being taken very deliberately," Richardson said.

Gergel has been pressing the government for several months about whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Roof, who faces numerous counts, including hate crimes, in the June 2015 slayings during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church.

"My patience is running out," he told Richardson, although he agreed to a government request to delay the trial. Gergel said the defendant has a right to a speedy trial and there is also a public interest in resolving the case.

"There has got to be a balance at some point between patience and paralysis," the judge said. "We are getting to a point where I need to set a trial date."

Defense attorney David Bruck again told the judge that, if the government does not seek the death penalty, his client will enter a guilty plea requiring only a plea hearing and a sentencing hearing in federal court.

Roof faces 9 counts of murder in state court and the prosecutor in that trial, which begins in July, is seeking the death penalty.

Later, attorneys for both the prosecution and defense told Gergel they are prepared to go to trial during next term of court in the case of Roof's friend Joey Meek. Prosecutors allege Meek did not tell investigators everything he knew about Roof's plans in the church shootings.

The defense suggested a late June trial although Gergel did not set a specific date.

Source: Associated Press, April 6, 2016

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