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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 -…

Charleston shootings: Dylann Roof 'fit' to stand trial

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
A white man accused of shooting dead nine black people at a church in Charleston is competent to stand trial, a federal judge in the US state of South Carolina has ruled.

A psychiatric review of 22-year-old Dylann Roof was performed after a request from his defence team.

He is accused of killing the nine parishioners during their Bible study class in June 2015.

A jury selection for a federal trial is due to resume on Monday.

US District Judge Richard Gergel made the ruling after a two-day hearing behind closed doors earlier this week.

He sealed his reasons for finding Dylann Roof competent, saying that information could keep him from having a fair trial.

The suspect faces 33 federal charges including hate crime. He has already been found competent in a state court, where he faces nine counts of murder, and prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty.

The church where the killings took place is a nationally known historic black church, and federal prosecutors claim the killings were racially motivated.

After the shootings, photos emerged online of Dylann Roof holding the Confederate battle flag, sparking a backlash against the emblem, which to many is a symbol of slavery.

Source: BBC News, November 25, 2016

Dylann Roof Competent To Stand Trial In Charleston Church Shooting


Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CBSMiami/AP) — A federal judge ruled Friday Dylann Roof is competent to stand trial in the killing of nine black worshippers at a South Carolina church last year.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel’s ruling clears the way for jury selection to restart Monday.

The judge delayed the process to begin narrowing the final jury pool on Nov. 7 when Roof’s lawyers suggested he either didn’t understand the charges against him or couldn’t properly help them with his defense.

Roof, 22, is charged in federal court with hate crime, obstruction of religion and other counts for the June 2015 attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

The decision came three days after Gergel wrapped up a hastily called two-day hearing that was held behind closed doors.

But the exact reasons and any testimony and facts backing Gergel’s findings are not known. Defense lawyers have not said what led them to question Roof’s competency and the judge sealed his findings for the same reason he took the rare step of only allowing Roof, his lawyers, prosecutors, court officials and witnesses in the hearing — Roof made statements to a psychologist that might not be legal to use at his trial and could taint potential jurors.

Gergel had promised to release a redacted version of his order last week, but instead filed it under seal.

At his competency hearing, Gergel heard testimony from psychologist James Ballenger and four other unnamed witnesses and reviewed sworn statements from three others, the judge wrote in his order. Ballenger completed his psychological review of Roof in just days.

According to police, Roof sat through nearly an hour of prayer and Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church with its pastor and 11 others before pulling a gun from his fanny pack near the end of the class and firing dozens of shots.

Roof hurled racial insults at the six women and three men he’s accused of killing and the three people he left alive, authorities said. He said he left the three unharmed so they could tell the world the shootings were because he hated black people.

Roof has already been found competent in state court, where prosecutors plan a second death penalty trial on nine counts of murder.

Source: CBSMiami/AP, November 25, 2016

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