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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 -…

Appeals court overturns Indiana death row inmate's conviction

A federal appeals court overturned the triple-murder conviction of an Indiana death row inmate on Friday and granted him a new trial due to key evidence that was withheld in earlier trials, the man's attorney and court documents said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago voted 6-3 to overturn the conviction of Wayne Kubsch for the 1988 murders of his wife Beth Kubsch, her ex-husband Rick Milewski and his son Aaron Milewski.

A videotaped police interview with neighbor Amanda Buck, who was then 9, could have helped challenge the prosecution's timeline of events if it had been introduced as evidence, the court said.

The tape was never shown to a jury because Buck was later unable to retell the events she described to police during the interview.

"Amanda's statement was exculpatory. If the statement were factually accurate, then Kubsch would be innocent," court documents said.

The documents added that while the state was not wrong in its decision to exclude the tape from earlier trials, a precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that it must now be entered.

The interview is "the only available information tending to corroborate Kubsch's claim of innocence," court documents said.

Alan Freedman, Kubsch's attorney, said by telephone he was relieved by the decision. Freedman said he spoke to his client earlier in the day to tell him the news.

Kubsch was tried twice for the murders. He was convicted both times and also recommended for the death penalty both times.

Beth Kubsch was found in September 1988 stabbed to death and wrapped in duct tape in the basement of a home in Mishawaka, Indiana.

Rick and Aaron Milewski were found in the same basement stabbed multiple times and shot in the mouth, according to court documents.

Wayne Kubsch was in severe debt, and two months before the murders had taken out a $575,000 life insurance policy on his wife, court documents said.

During his first trial, prosecutors argued that he killed his wife to collect the money from the policy.

Source: Reuters, Timothy Mclaughlin, September 23, 2016

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