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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…

Federal Judge OKs Louisiana’s Request For No Executions Until At Least 2018

Louisiana's death chamber
Louisiana's death chamber
WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Tuesday approved Louisiana officials’ request that a stay on executions in the state be extended into 2018.

The delay was approved by U.S. District Court Judge James J. Brady in ongoing litigation brought by two death row inmates, Jessie Hoffman and Christopher Sepulvado.

The state had filed the unopposed request earlier in the day on Tuesday. Although Brady’s approval of the order is dated Tuesday, it was not posted on the court’s docket until Wednesday.

Prior to this week’s order, all proceedings in the case had been on hold through July 11, 2016.

“Counsel were in agreement that a continuance of the stay for another year was appropriate,” attorneys for the state wrote. However, “given that a twelve month stay would put all parties back in the position of dealing with a legislative session and possible conflicts resulting from same, it would be prudent to extend the stay for eighteen months or until approximately January 8, 2018.”

Brady granted the request, extending the stay through Jan. 8, 2018, on which date he scheduled a status conference in the case.

The lawsuit, initially brought in 2012, has been on hold since early 2014, with the stay of the case having been extended several times. In January 2014, Brady had denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case, holding that Hoffman and Sepulvado stated several claims in their complaint that, while they might not ultimately succeed, are “plausible on its face.” Brady allowed Eighth Amendment and equal protection claims brought by the inmates regarding the state’s lethal injection protocol and a claim seeking protections giving them access to the courts to proceed to trial.

Louisiana has only held two executions in the past 15 years, the most recent in 2010. As of Jan. 1, however, the state had more than 80 people on death row.

While the case currently only includes two of those people, others could join the challenge if the state attempted to set an execution date for them.

Source: Buzzfeed, June 2, 2016

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