FEATURED POST

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…

Texas judge voices doubts on death penalty

Judge Elsa Alcala
Judge Elsa Alcala
A judge on the state’s highest criminal court, which has the last word on Texas death penalty cases, believes it’s time to reassess whether capital punishment should be allowed to continue in the nation’s most prolific state for executions.

Judge Elsa Alcala, a five-year member of the Court of Criminal Appeals, this week filed an opinion saying she has “great concern” over the way Texas implements the death penalty.

Death row inmates, the Republican judge wrote, have raised compelling arguments about falling support for the death penalty, noting that a majority of states now decline to execute inmates either by law or by practice — a change from 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to resume executions after a four-year hiatus based in part on support for executing convicted murderers shown by 36 states.

In addition, Alcala wrote, Texas courts should study whether the death penalty is unconstitutional because it is arbitrarily imposed by race, disproportionately affecting minorities, and whether excessive delays in imposing the ultimate sentence results in cruel and unusual punishment because inmates are held in solitary confinement for years, if not decades.

“I think there are, as I said in that opinion, significant problems with the death penalty,” Alcala told the American-Statesman. “There are lots of problems, and I think the public is not aware of the problems.”

“If you ask me how good is Texas at carrying out the death penalty, I am unconvinced,” Alcala said in an interview. “We see cases over and over again where 10, 20 years later you find problems,” including mistaken witness testimony, exonerations based on previously unavailable DNA tests and scientific advancements that call earlier expert testimony into question.


Source: My Statesman, Chuck Lindell, June 17, 2016

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