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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 -…

Japan: Court upholds acquittal for man sentenced to death for arson-murders

OSAKA — The Osaka High Court has upheld a lower court decision that acquitted a man who had previously been sentenced to death for murdering his daughter-in-law and her son before setting fire to their apartment in Osaka in 2002.

Takemitsu Mori, a 59-year-old prison guard on administrative leave, was acquitted by the Osaka District Court in March 2012 after the Supreme Court ordered a retrial by repealing a high court decision that sentenced him to death, a rare decision by the country’s highest court.

The focus of the case was what to make of circumstantial evidence presented by prosecutors, while the defendant consistently denied the charges, saying he had never entered the apartment of the woman and her son.

Presiding Judge Shinichiro Fukuzaki rejected the prosecutor’s claim that Mori has been to the apartment because he knew the location of furniture in their apartment. The judge said the defendant could have assumed the room arrangement from conversations with his family after the incident.

Mori was arrested in November 2002, seven months after Mayumi Mori, 28, and her 1-year-old son Toma were found dead in their apartment in Osaka’s Hirano Ward on April 14 that year. The woman was found strangled and her son drowned.

In April 2010, the Supreme Court rejected both the life sentence handed down by a district court and the death penalty by a high court, judging it necessary to see facts that can only be explained if the defendant had in fact committed the crime.

Following the Supreme Court ruling, the Osaka District Court found Mori not guilty, saying there was no evidence that proved the defendant had entered the apartment on the day of the incident.

In the latest examination at the high court, a DNA analysis of a dog harness, claimed by prosecutors to be the murder weapon, was conducted but did not find any link to Mori.

The prosecutors requested a review of the lower court’s acquittal as saliva found on a cigarette butt discovered in a staircase at the apartment matched Mori’s DNA and an eyewitness saw a car of the same type and color as Mori’s near the apartment.

The defense counsel asked the court to reject the appeal, arguing that the court was presented with no credible evidence showing that the cigarette butt was discarded on the day of the incident.

Source: Japan Today, March 3, 2017

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