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…

Nebraska: 25-Year Criminal Prosecutor says Beatrice Six Case Caused him to Oppose Death Penalty

“It is never acceptable to risk killing innocent persons for the sake of being tough on crime.”

LINCOLN, NE – A 25-year, tough-on-crime, criminal prosecutor who supervised the 2008 DNA testing that freed the Beatrice Six, says Nebraska’s death penalty should be replaced with life in prison without the chance of parole.

Previously a staunch supporter of the death penalty, former Gage County Attorney Randall Ritnour said overseeing the largest false confession case in U.S. history, caused him to change his mind on the death penalty.

“It was an astonishing discovery that led to my decision to oppose the death penalty,” Ritnour said.

A federal court jury on Wednesday awarded a $28 million verdict for a reckless investigation that sent the wrong people to prison for the 1985 rape and homicide of 68-year-old Helen Wilson. James Dean, Kathleen Gonzalez, Debra Shelden, Ada JoAnn Taylor, Thomas Winslow and Joseph White served a combined 77 years in prison. They were the first people in the state cleared by DNA evidence.

“I was an aggressive, no-nonsense prosecutor. My experience with the Beatrice Six case has convinced me beyond all doubt that it is possible to come to the wrong conclusion in a criminal investigation and that it is possible to convict innocent persons of a capital crime,” he said.

“Had it not been for the fact that some of the Beatrice Six had made plea agreements and received lesser sentences, it is likely that some or all of them would have been sentenced to death and perhaps executed before the truth was discovered. The prosecution, in fact, suggested that a death sentence was appropriate and desired,” he said.

“As a proud citizen of this state, it is never acceptable to risk killing innocent persons for the sake of being tough on crime. It is simply not who we are nor who we should wish to be.”

Source: Retain a Just Nebraska, July 8, 2016

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