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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…

Sri Lanka: Nearly 190 death sentences commuted under present govt. moving to abolish death penalty

Sri Lanka
President Maithripala Sirisena has commuted 187 death sentences to life imprisonment on recommendations by an expert committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge Nimal E. Dissanayake.

The decision has been announced in the wake of protests demanding the implementation of the death penalty on the person convicted by the Negombo High Court for rape and murder of a 5-year old girl in the Kotadeniyawa police area in the Gampaha District.

Justice Ministry spokesperson Harsha B. Abeykoon told The Island that President Maithripala Sirisena had endorsed Dissanayake committee's recommendations on 3 separate occasions (Dec. 2015, Apr. 2016 and May 2016).

The previous government established the committee in Oct. 2013 to explore ways and means of overcoming severe difficulties caused by suspension of death penalty in accordance with an understanding with the European Union. The committee included Secretary to the Justice Ministry, additional Solicitor General and Prisons Commissioner.

The Prisons Department has made repeated representations in respect of nearly 1,200 convicts on death row.

Abeykoon said that the committee had inquired into cases of nearly 400 convicts on death row and recommended the abolition of death sentence.

Foreign Ministry sources told The Island that FM Mangala Samaraweera assured the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council last September that Sri Lanka wouldn't implement the death penalty. He also said the government would abolish death penalty.

Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told The Island yesterday that it would be a continuing process. Asked whether those on the death row, who had their death sentences commuted to life sentence, were eligible for release after serving 20 years behind bars, Minister Rajapakshe said that was a possibility. Minister Rajapakshe emphasised that death penalty had been converted to life sentence before the incumbent government came into being in January 2015.

Source: island.lk, May 28, 2016

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