FEATURED POST

America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

Image
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…

Death penalty chaos around the country

Nevada just became the ninth death penalty state to go a decade or more without an execution. Add those nine to the 19 states without capital punishment, and you have 28 states that have abandoned executions in either law or practice.

And in the remaining states? The death penalty is in complete chaos.

Florida’s death penalty law has already been thrown out twice in 2016. The first ruling came from the U.S. Supreme Court in January. The Florida legislature then passed a “fix” to the law, and last month a Miami judge threw it out again. Alabama’s death penalty law is similar to Florida’s, and the Supreme Court sent a death sentence back for review for the third time this week because of those similarities.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Georgia have come under fire for illegally keeping African Americans off the jury in a death penalty case. The Supreme Court overturned the sentence with a vote of 7-1. The defendant is one of many black men sentenced to die by an all-white jury across the south.

Lethal injection debacles continue as states struggle to find drugs, hide their processes in secrecy, or carry out executions with outright “systemic ineptitude.”

Oklahoma is back at the heart of the lethal injection controversy. A grand jury released 106 pages of scathing critiques last month, citing “inexcusable failures” in the state’s execution process. According to the Washington Post, the grand jury:

“…paints these officials as careless and, in some cases, reckless. The missteps described by the grand jury include a pharmacist ordering the wrong drug for executions, multiple state employees failing to notice or tell anyone about the mixup and a high-ranking official in the governor’s office urging others to carry out an execution even with the incorrect drug.”

The same secrecy and lack of oversight found in Oklahoma is common in other states, too, and has contributed to execution problems in Missouri, Georgia, and Ohio.

And now Pfizer, the last remaining, FDA-approved supplier of lethal injection drugs, declared it no longer wants to be in the execution business. Pfizer announced sweeping new restrictions on the distribution of some if its drugs, preventing them from being used in executions.

The last death penalty holdouts show that the only way to have a death penalty is to accept bias, ineptitude, and arbitrariness. It’s only a matter of time before the death penalty is gone for good.

Source: Equal Justice USA, Sarah Craft, June 7, 2016

- Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com - Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Texas: With a man's execution days away, his victims react with fury or forgiveness

Texas executes Christopher Young

Ohio executes Robert Van Hook

Saudi Arabia executes seven people in one day

20 Minutes to Death: Record of the Last Execution in France

Ex-Aum member Yoshihiro Inoue’s last words: ‘I didn’t expect things to turn out this way’

Execution date pushed back for Texas 7 escapee after paperwork error on death warrant

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejects clemency for Chris Young

Ohio Governor commutes one sentence, delays another

Oklahoma: Death row inmate’s legal team hopes DNA testing on key piece of evidence will exonerate him before execution