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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Dylann Roof challenges federal death penalty law as unconstitutional

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Lawyers for Dylann Roof, the accused Charleston church shooter, filed a motion to challenge the constitutionality of the federal death penalty Monday.

Roof's lawyers argue that "the federal death penalty constitutes a legally prohibited, arbitrary, cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by both the Fifth and Eighth Amendments."

They continue to argue that the death penalty itself is unconstitutional in addition to the federal law:

The Federal Death Penalty Act "may have been designed with as much care as possible under the circumstances, the capital sentencing process that the statute provides is constitutionally inadequate in practice. The results of jurors' good-faith grappling with the law - arbitrary, biased, and erroneous death verdicts - are intolerable as a matter of due process and proportional punishment."

Roof faces 33 federal counts, including hate crimes, in the shooting deaths of nine black parishioners during a Bible study. 

His penalty trial is set to begin in November.

The challenge is being brought because the federal government is seeking the death penalty in the case after rejecting Roof's offer to plead guilty and accept multiple sentences of life in prison without the opportunity for parole, Buzzfeed reports.

Sources: The Dallas Morning News, Hannah Wise; The Associated Press, August 1, 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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