FEATURED POST

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…

Dylann Roof’s Attorneys Argue Death Penalty Clashes With Religious Freedoms Of Prospective Jurors

The parking lot behind the AME Emanuel Church, Charleston.
The parking lot behind the AME Emanuel Church, Charleston.
Attorneys for the accused Charleston church shooter argue that forcing potential jurors to say they would impose the death penalty violates their religious freedoms.

Attorneys for the man accused of killing nine black members of a historic South Carolina church expanded their argument opposing the death penalty on Monday, asserting it violates the religious freedoms of prospective jurors.

The attorneys for Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof argue that asking potential jurors to state they are capable of imposing a death sentence “cannot be justified as having a legitimate secular purpose when it functions to skew the jury in favor of conviction” and encourages judges and prosecutors “to interrogate private citizens about their religious beliefs.”

The court filing was an answer to the government’s argument against Roof’s motion to strike the death penalty as a possible punishment in the federal case, which is set to start jury selection this month.

Religious freedoms are also inhibited, Roof’s attorneys added, because potential people are forced to choose between jury service and “adherence to their most closely-held religious, spiritual, and moral values.”

Prosecutors for the government argue that the so-called process of “death qualifying” jurors isn’t religious discrimination because it’s the same if you oppose the death penalty for religious reasons or non-religious ones.

“A prospective juror’s religion or religious beliefs do not potentially disqualify the juror from service; only his inability to apply the law does so,” prosecutors have argued.

Roof’s attorneys are also arguing that the death penalty itself is unconstitutional. They also noted that their challenge is only being brought because the government rejected his offer to plead guilty and accept a punishment of multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Jury selection in Roof’s federal trial is scheduled to begin later this month, with 3,000 Charleston-area residents slated to participate in the process.

Source: BuzzFeed, Mike Hayes, Sept. 13, 2016

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