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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 -…

The Use of the Death Penalty Is at Its Highest in 25 Years, a New Report Says

More people were executed worldwide in 2015 than at any point in the last 25 years, according to a new report by global human rights group Amnesty International released on Wednesday.

At least 1,634 people were put to death across 25 different countries, a 54% increase from the number of executions recorded the previous year. Even without the figure for China (Beijing treats its executions as a state secret), Amnesty said last year's total represented the highest it has recorded since 1989.

The report also showed that nearly 90% of all recorded use of the death penalty was accounted for by just 3 countries - Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan, with the latter reinstating capital punishment in December 2014 following a 7-year moratorium. The 3 nations fall between China, which Amnesty estimates executes thousands annually, and the U.S., which rounds out the top 5 with 28 people put to death in 2015.

Amnesty added that the report includes only the executions they were able to verify, with the actual number in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Somalia, and Egypt likely higher than their respective confirmed totals of 977, 158, 26, 25, and 22.

At the same time, the report observed that most of the world is renouncing the death penalty. Madagascar, Fiji, the Republic of Congo and Suriname abolished the death penalty for all crimes last year, bringing the total number of countries that have done so to 102. As of Dec. 31, 2015, Amnesty said, the number of countries that have abolished the death penalty "in law or practice" stood at 140.

"Thankfully, countries that execute belong to a small and increasingly isolated minority," Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary General, said in a statement. "The majority of states have turned their back on the death penalty."

Source: TIME.com, April 6, 2016

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