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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…

Pennsylvania: Aric Woodard's execution stayed

Aric Shayne Woodard
Aric Shayne Woodard
A York murderer's execution, originally scheduled for Saturday, has been stayed, according to online court records.

Aric Shayne Woodard, 43, formerly of West Jackson Street, was sentenced to death after being found guilty in 2013 of first-degree murder for fatally beating 2-year-old Jaques Omari Twinn on Nov. 7, 2011, while baby-sitting the boy and the boy's little sister.

Jaques was the son of Hayley Twinn, of York, and Tyrone Kemp, of Baltimore.

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel signed a notice of execution for Woodard in January, setting March 4 as the execution date .

However, online court records show Woodard filed a motion to stay the execution on Feb. 6. That motion was granted by Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner on Feb. 9, according to court records.

Additionally, on Feb. 13, Bortner granted a motion for an appointment of legal counsel for Woodard.

Pennsylvania's death penalty


Shortly after taking office in 2015, Gov. Tom Wolf began issuing reprieves to condemned inmates, citing concerns about flaws in Pennsylvania's capital-punishment system.

He has said the moratorium will remain in effect at least until he receives a report from a legislative commission that has been studying the topic for about five years, according to The Associated Press.

The last execution in Pennsylvania was in 1999.


The background


According to Woodard's charging documents, police were called to a home in the 100 block of West Maple Street about 2:25 p.m. Nov. 7, 2011, for a child in cardiac arrest.

Jaques was rushed to York Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:05 p.m.

York City Detective Al Clarkson said at the time that Woodard left the children alone to go to a nearby store and that when he returned, he assaulted the child after realizing Jaques had smeared feces on the kitchen carpet.

Woodard had feelings for the children's mother, but she did not reciprocate, according to Clarkson.

"(Woodard) became frustrated that day," the detective has said. "He knew she was out with somebody else, and he realized she was using him to watch her kids while she was out with another guy."

Source: York Dispatch, Christopher Dornblaser, March 4, 2017

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