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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…

Aussie sentenced to life for drug trafficking in Vietnam, escapes death penalty

Hanoi, Vietnam
A court in southern Vietnam has sentenced an Australian man to life in prison for drug trafficking.

Nathan Andrew James was convicted in a one-day trial by the People's Court in Ho Chi Minh City this week, a court official said Wednesday on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media.

James, 34, was arrested in October 2013 while checking into a flight to Australia after customs officials at the airport discovered 1.5 kilograms ( 3.3 pounds ) of heroin hidden in his luggage.

The indictment said James owed some money to a man named Tim, who offered to write off the debt if James agreed to take the heroin hidden in two suitcases from Vietnam to Australia.

James told the court that he had received the suitcases from the man, but denied that he knew heroin was hidden in them, an explanation that was rejected by the court, the official said.

James could have been sentenced to death, but the court took into consideration his history of mental disorders, she said.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement Wednesday that it has provided consular assistance to a man convicted in Vietnam. It did not name him.

That assistance included attending court proceedings and visiting him in prison. The statement gave no other details, citing privacy obligations.

Vietnam has one of the world's toughest drug laws, where trafficking 100 grams of heroin is punishable by death.

Source: The Associated Press, June 1, 2016

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