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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 rights chief expresses concern about Iraq's fast-tracking of executions

UN Building NYC
The United Nations human rights chief today expressed serious concern that Iraq has created a committee to accelerate implementation of death sentences.

The committee, announced by Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, has been mandated to identify procedural or legislative delays in implementation of death sentences passed by Iraq's courts.

"Given the weaknesses of the Iraqi justice system, and the current environment in Iraq, I am gravely concerned that innocent people have been and may continue to be convicted and executed, resulting in gross, irreversible miscarriages of justice," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a news release.

"Fast-tracking executions will only accelerate injustice," Mr. Zeid added, urging the Government not to take any actions that may further weaken the administration of justice and diminish the rights of those subject to criminal legal procedures.

Monitoring by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq (OHCHR) has revealed a consistent failure to respect due process and fair trial standards, including a reliance on torture to extract confessions.

UNAMI and OHCHR have also noted the lack of transparency, with the authorities failing to provide timely public information on executions.

On 6 July, the Iraqi Minister of Justice announced that 45 death sentences have been carried out since the beginning of 2016, 3 more executions were forthcoming, and amendments to the legal framework to accelerate the implementation of death sentences would be put to the Iraqi Parliament.

On 23 July, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of the committee. An estimated 1,200 individuals are on death row in Iraq, including possibly hundreds who have exhausted appeals processes and have received the final decree of the President.

The Government of Iraq has not publicly confirmed these figures and usually only announces that executions have taken place long after the event.

Mr. Zeid called on Iraq to end the use of the death penalty by establishing an immediate moratorium on capital punishment and to reduce the number of offences for which the death penalty may be imposed.

Source: un.org, 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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