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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 -…

Utah May be Forced to Use the Firing Squad in Future Executions

 Utah's firing squad execution chair
Utah's firing squad execution chair
Utah is one step closer to returning to the firing squad as its only realistic form of capital punishment.

The Pfizer drug company has announced that it will no longer make available several of its drugs for use in state-sanctioned executions. Pfizer was the only U.S. firm still making, and allowing, drugs used in executions.

18 months ago Utah Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, got his HB11 passed into law. It specifically says if lethal drugs aren't available at the time a death warrant is to be imposed, then the form of execution shall be a firing squad.

In the 2016 Legislature retiring Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, had SB189, which would have done away with the death penalty in Utah from this time forward.

Those already sentenced to death could still be executed.

SB189 passed in the Senate, but never got a vote by the whole House.

An anti-death penalty group estimates that it costs $1.6 million for Utah to go through all the of court appeals in a capital case, much more than it would cost to keep a convicted murderer in prison for life.

Urquhart and others argued that the death penalty is archaic and that modern DNA and other criminal high-tech detection shows some people are convicted of, and executed for, crimes they did not commit.

Since 1975, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, Utah has executed 7 murderers and have 9 currently on death row awaiting execution.

With the international drug firm's decision over the weekend, it now appears those Utah murderers, if they are finally executed, will be killed by firing squad.

Source: utahpolicy.com, May 16, 2016

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