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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…

Saudi Arabia beheads own citizen for murder; 94th execution this year

Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Riyadh, May 24: Saudi Arabia put to death a citizen convicted of murder today, bringing to 94 the number of executions in the kingdom this year.

Imad al-Assimi was found guilty of shooting dead a compatriot in a dispute, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

Most people put to death in Saudi Arabia are beheaded with a sword. Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for “terrorism” on a single day in January.

According to human rights group Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia had the third-highest number of executions last year — at least 158.

That was far behind Pakistan which executed 326, and Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, which executed at least 977, said Amnesty, whose figures exclude secretive China.

Rights activists have raised concerns about the fairness of trials in Saudi Arabia and have been particularly critical of the use of the death penalty for non-violent offences like drug trafficking.

The interior ministry has said it is “determined to fight drugs of all kinds due to the serious damage they do to individuals and society”.

Saudi Arabia has a strict Islamic legal code under which murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape, homosexuality and apostasy are all punishable by death.

Source: Agence France-Presse, May 24, 2016

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