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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 -…

UN human rights chief bucks capital punishment

UN building, NYC
The United Nations human rights chief is opposing the imposition of capital punishment in all circumstances, saying death penalty is "not an effective deterrent" to crime and does not protect people from drug abuse.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein was reacting to the execution of four convicted drug traffickers in Indonesia last Friday.

Convicted Filipina drug trafficker Mary Jane Veloso was spared because the Philippine government under former president Benigno Aquino III asked that she be allowed to testify against Maria Kristina Sergio, who allegedly recruited her and tricked her into smuggling 2.6 kg of heroin into Indonesia.

But the new Philippine administration under President Duterte has expressed conviction that death penalty can be used to stop illegal drug trade in the country.

Al Hussein said the focus of drug-related crime prevention should involve strengthening the justice system to make it more effective.

He also called on authorities of "the most prolific executioner" in Southeast Asia to immediately reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty.

"The increasing use of the death penalty in Indonesia is terribly worrying, and I urge the government to immediately end this practice which is unjust and incompatible with human rights," he said.

"I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia," he added.

Al Hussein noted that under international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Indonesia has ratified, countries which have not abolished the death penalty may only use capital punishment for "the most serious crimes."

He pointed out that drug-related offenses do not fall under this threshold of "most serious crimes," which have been interpreted to mean only crimes involving intentional killing.

He said that while he acknowledges the challenges faced by Indonesia in combating drug-related crimes, the country's response must be rooted in international human rights law.

Philippines death penalty bill

Meanwhile, the death penalty bill in the House of Representatives faces rough sailing as opposition congressmen are determined to block its passage.

"We will fight tooth and nail any and all attempts to renew the death penalty and send us back to the medieval ages," Rep. Lito Atienza of party-list group Buhay said yesterday.

He said he and his pro-life colleagues would argue doggedly against any measure that seeks to re-impose capital punishment.

Another opposition lawmaker, Harry Roque of Kabayan, said he, like Atienza, is against the revival of the death penalty.

"What we need to do is to reform the criminal justice system," he said.

The 2 belong to the opposition bloc led by Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.

Ironically, Suarez is supporting President Duterte's proposal for re-imposition of the death penalty.

Source: Philippine Star, July 31, 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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