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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 -…

Oklahoma will go a calendar year without an execution; future remains cloudy

Oklahoma's death chamber
Oklahoma's death chamber
For the first time since 1994, Oklahoma will not put to death any inmates this year

A quagmire of incompetency, investigations and court action has resulted in 2016 becoming the first year since 1994 that Oklahoma has not carried out an execution.

Four months after a grand jury released a highly critical report on the execution of Charles Warner and Richard Glossip’s near-execution, the public still knows little about what’s next for capital punishment in the state.

In a 106-page report released in May on its investigation of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, the multicounty grand jury used terms such as “careless” and “cavalier” to describe the actions of some state officials. The jury said the execution protocol should be revised again and needs to require verification at every step of the process.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt said previously he will not request execution dates until at least five months after the DOC’s updated lethal injection protocol is finalized, which means Oklahoma’s earliest possible execution date will be in 2017.

The DOC has declined to provide information about what it will change about its execution protocol and has not discussed the matter at any subsequent meetings of its governing board. The Attorney General’s Office says nothing in its monthly status reports required by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals — which put an indefinite stay on executions in effect — except to inform the justices there are no updates.

The Governor’s Office refused as recently as Friday to comment about the work still needed to resume executions in Oklahoma.

When asked for comment last week, Pruitt’s office released a statement indicating he wanted to assure families of victims that the review process “will continue to be both deliberate and empirical.”
“I am confident that the Department of Corrections, under the leadership of Director (Joe) Allbaugh, is taking the appropriate time needed to ensure the execution protocols are fully in place and without error in the most efficient way possible,” Pruitt said.

The state will have 150 days after the DOC finalizes its protocol to set execution dates for Glossip and other death-row inmates, and the new protocol will likely be litigated at the federal level.

Glossip, whose scheduled execution last September was stayed, and five others are listed in ongoing litigation with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, as they have exhausted their appeals and are eligible to be scheduled for execution.

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Source: Tulsa World, Samantha Vicent, September 19, 2016

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