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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…

USA: In party platform, Democrats call for end to death penalty

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton
Washington (CNN) -- Democrats are calling for an end to capital punishment.

The latest draft of the party's platform, released Friday, says the death penalty "has proven to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment" that "has no place in the United States of America."

The inclusion of the provision represents a victory of sorts for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders -- a longtime opponent of the punishment who has said he is remaining in the presidential race in order to fight for progressive causes.

Sanders offered mild praise for the platform Friday evening, tweeting, "The Democratic Platform includes some accomplishments that will begin to move this country in the right direction."

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has supported the death penalty in the past, albeit on a limited basis, suggesting that there could be cases for "very limited use" of the punishment in "horrific" terrorist crimes.

She was confronted over the issue during a CNN-TV One town hall event in May by an exonerated former death row inmate who spent 39 years in jail for a murder he did not commit.

"Where I end up is this, and maybe it's a distinction that is hard to support, but at this point, given the choices we face from terrorist activities primarily in our country that end up under federal jurisdiction, for very limited purposes, I think it can still be held in reserve for those," Clinton said.


For Sanders supporters, the inclusion of the death penalty provision could be viewed as the latest example of the ways in which the populist candidate has pushed the Democratic Party to the left.

Other provisions in the platform include support for workers earning at least $15 an hour -- though the platform doesn't call for a $15 federal minimum wage, one of Sanders' signature issues -- adopting a tougher tax policy against corporations, expanding Social Security and supporting states that choose to decriminalize marijuana.

Clinton adviser Maya Harris praised the plaform last week, calling it "the most ambitious and progressive platform" the party has seen.

Although Sanders told CNN's Jake Tapper last week that he claimed some "very, very important victories" in the initial draft of the Democratic platform, he also said his camp had "lost some very important fights" on some issues, including trade, a carbon tax and health insurance.

He vowed to "take that fight to Orlando" -- where the committee will meet next week to approve the final draft of the platform -- and said if he doesn't succeed there, he will "certainly take it to the floor of the Democratic convention."

Source: CNN, Rachel Chason, July 2, 2016

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