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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 -…

Montana Death Penalty Repeal Bill Narrowly Defeated

Days after hearing testimony from clergy, young conservative lawmakers, and an exonerated death-row inmate from Arizona asking for the end of capital punishment, state lawmakers voted against their request.

The bill, HB-366, introduced by Adam Hertz, a freshman Republican from Missoula, was voted down largely along party lines — Democrats voting in favor of abolishing the death penalty and Republicans tending to vote against.

Shortly before the House Judiciary committee voted, Representative Lola Sheldon-Galloway, a Republican from Great Falls, passed out a picture of her sister-in law and asked the lawmakers on the committee to imagine something — a daughter, being murdered, beaten with a pop bottle and stabbed in the throat, eventually running out of blood. Then she gets tossed in the trunk of a car.

Lola Sheldon-Galloway says the bill, which would replace the death penalty with life without parole, was too weak in its language. She says some people, convicted of heinous crimes, shouldn’t be able to leave a prison alive.

"There is a better option, than this particular legislation," Sheldon-Galloway says. "And I will definitely vote no on it, for that reason."

When the bill was introduced earlier this week, no-one testified against it. Before the vote, Representative Shane Morigeau, a Democrat from Missoula, asked lawmakers to consider the mistakes that can be made in the death penalty system.

"We are not perfect in our sentencing," Morigeau says. "We make mistakes all the time. And I think sentencing one person to death and making a mistake one time, is one time too many."

The bill to abolish capital punishment failed ten votes to nine. 

Attempts to remove the death penalty from Montana’s books have failed in every legislative session this century. 

There are currently two men sitting on death row.

Source: Montana Public Radio, February 10, 2017

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