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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…

Indonesia gives death row inmates 72 hours notice of impending executions

Indonesia has given a group of death row inmates 72 hours notice before they face the firing squad.

Lawyers for some of the group have told the ABC their clients may seek last-minute clemency from President Joko Widodo, meaning their executions could be delayed.

It will be the first round of executions since Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan faced the firing squad in April last year, and the third round endorsed by the current President.

The country's Attorney-General's office, which oversees executions, would not confirm any details but spokesman Mohammad Rum said: "The time is approaching."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has spoken out against the looming executions.

Speaking at an ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Laos, Ms Bishop said she raised Australia's opposition to the death penalty with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

She said Australia's position came as no surprise to Indonesia, given the strong comments from the Government last year before the executions of Chan and Sukamaran.

Five other foreigners were also put to death in the executions, which sparked international outrage.

But Mr Widodo has insisted Jakarta is fighting a war against drugs and traffickers must be harshly punished.

Diplomats, rights groups pressure Indonesia to halt executions

Deputy Pakistani ambassador in Jakarta Syed Zahid Raza said the convicts, including a Pakistani, could be executed around midnight Friday.

Pakistan has so far publicly voiced the most concern about the upcoming executions, and its foreign ministry summoned the Indonesian ambassador to Islamabad to convey their concerns about the case of their national, 52-year-old Zulfiqar Ali.

Activists said Mr Ali, sentenced to death in 2005 for heroin possession, was beaten and tortured into confessing and did not receive a fair trial.

Rights groups have also called on Indonesia to halt the planned executions, citing worries about irregularities with some convictions.

In a statement, Amnesty International urged "the country's authorities to halt all executions and to take immediate steps to ensure that the cases of all those under sentence of death are reviewed by an independent and impartial body".

There have also been concerns over the case of a female Indonesian drug convict, Merri Utami, who is among the group.

Rights group the National Commission on Violence Against Women said the former domestic worker was tricked into trafficking heroin.

Authorities have been making preparations, with death row drug convicts transferred to Nusakambangan prison island, where Indonesia puts convicts to death, and 14 prisoners reportedly placed in isolation — an usual step before executions.

About 1,500 police were being deployed around Cilacap, the town closest to Nusakambangan, visitors have been barred for a week and Muslim and Christian spiritual counsellors were seen crossing to the island.

Indonesia — which has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world — executed 14 drug convicts, mostly foreigners, in two batches last year.

Source: ABC/AFP, July 26, 2016

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

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