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…

Ex-governor Michael Dukakis endorses campaign to exonerate Ethel Rosenberg, executed in 1953

Robert and Michael visited the White House in 1953 in a failed bid to get President Eisenhower to stop their parents’ executions.
Robert and Michael visited the White House in 1953 in a failed
bid to get President Eisenhower to stop their parents’ executions.
More than 60 years after the execution of alleged spy Ethel Rosenberg, a former governor of Massachusetts has endorsed a campaign to exonerate her.

Rosenberg and her husband, Julius, of New York, were put to death by electric chair in 1953 for conspiring to pass secrets about the atomic bomb to the Soviets. Other alleged co-conspirators served prison sentences after cooperating with prosecutors.

The Rosenbergs' convictions and executions remain controversial, with supporters saying the evidence was weak and the Rosenbergs were victims of Cold War hysteria.

The couple's sons, Robert and Michael Meeropol, were 6 and 10 years old at the time. Now 69 and 73, they are asking the U.S. Department of Justice and President Obama to definitively state that their mother was innocent.

"An enormous body of evidence ... demonstrates that Ethel Rosenberg was not a spy, and that the government knew this at the time of her trial and execution," said Dukakis in offering his support. "The charges against Ethel and the threat of the death penalty were meant to intimidate her and use her, in the government's own words, as 'a lever' to force her husband to cooperate with the prosecution."

The cause has also earned endorsements from U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, filmmaker Michael Moore and 13 members of the New York City Council, along with 45,000 signatures on an online petition by the Rosenberg Fund for Children.

This effort is modeled on a proclamation Dukakis issued as governor in 1977, declaring that Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants and alleged anarchists executed for murder in 1927, were not guilty.

"Today, I urge President Obama to take similar action," said Dukakis, adding that a presidential proclamation would be in the service of "justice."

In an interview last month, Robert Meeropol said he does not want his mother pardoned "because she was not guilty. We're asking for a proclamation that she was wrongly convicted, and wrongly executed."

The brothers acknowledged in 2008 that their father was part of a conspiracy, but they insist he did not pass along nuclear secrets. Their change of heart about Julius Rosenberg came after co-defendant Morty Sobell confessed.

Source: masslive.com, December 13, 2016

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