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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 -…

In the aftermath of the elections

Sr. Helen Prejean
Sr. Helen Prejean
This has been an out-of-the-ball-park, stunning presidential election. Forty-two million Americans voted for Donald Trump, a man who during the campaign engaged in the most abusive, divisive, violent, and untruthful rhetoric that I have ever witnessed in American politics. He approves of waterboarding. He says we need to give police more freedom to “stop and frisk” in our cities. He wants to build a wall on the border of Mexico. He’s all for Law and Order and a staunch believer in privatizing prisons. He even threatened to prosecute and lock up his political opponent.

Here’s my question: how deeply must our citizens be hurting, and how desperately must they distrust the current political system to have chosen such an outlier candidate?

And I can’t help but ask: with Trump’s appointee as Attorney General and his nominee for the Supreme Court what will happen to our quest to abolish the death penalty – especially now that we’re closer to ending it than we’ve ever been? What will happen to our quest to end mass incarceration and disenfranchisement of so many minorities, especially African Americans?

It’s time for soul searching. It’s time for deeper listening to each other. I confess that during the 18-month presidential campaign (it felt endless) I didn’t take pro-Trump folks seriously at all. I wrote them off. I couldn’t believe that more than a few citizens would actually vote for Trump as president. Boy, was I wrong!

Now I know that I need to make a concerted effort to engage in dialogue with people whose political beliefs are very different from my own. I need to really listen when they express just what it is they hope for to “make America great again.” Or is “making America great again” what they’re really seeking anyway?

People in the Rust Belt, who’ve lost manufacturing jobs and whose wages have been stagnant for the last 15 years were the turning point in the election. A whole lot of people are not experiencing the Great American Dream, that’s for sure. I’ve been knowing that about those who live in poverty. Now I’m learning it about middle class America as well.

I welcome your thoughts. Please post a comment on my Facebook page.

Source: Ministry Against The Death Penalty, Sister Helen Prejean, December 7, 2016

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