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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

Kenya Spares the Lives of Everyone on Its Death Row

President Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta
NAIROBI, Kenya — With a stroke of his pen, President Uhuru Kenyatta spared the lives of thousands of prisoners on Kenya’s death row on Monday by commuting their sentences to life in prison.

Kenyan law allows capital punishment and convicts are regularly sentenced to death, but the sentence is almost never carried out; the last execution was in 1987. In colonial times, the British authorities executed more than 1,000 Kenyans who were accused of fomenting revolt.

Kenyan news sites beamed images of Mr. Kenyatta leaning over his desk on Monday, surrounded by top officials, as he signed documents that spared the lives of 2,655 men and 92 women. Kenya’s last president, Mwai Kibaki, did something similar in 2009.

Mr. Kenyatta faces re-election next year. Some analysts said the mass reprieve on Monday may have been intended to make the president appear more compassionate as the election draws near. Mr. Kenyatta remains popular among members of his own ethnic group, the Kikuyu, and he enjoys support from other ethnic groups that belong to his political alliance. But opposition leaders say his government has allowed corruption to flourish.

Amnesty International, which has accused Mr. Kenyatta’s government of brutal crackdowns on protesters and of other human rights abuses, praised the reprieve, which covers everyone on death row in Kenya.

“The decision to commute death sentences brings Kenya closer to the growing community of nations that have abolished this cruel and inhuman form of punishment,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, the group’s regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. “It must now be abolished for posterity.”

Source: The New York Times, October 24, 2016

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