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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…

Thailand Appeals Court upholds death sentences for 2 migrant workers convicted of 2014 double homicide

Wai Phyo, at left, and Zaw Lin are paraded in front of the media on Oct. 3, 2014, shortly after their arrest on Koh Tao.
Wai Phyo, left, and Zaw Lin on Oct. 3, 2014, shortly after their arrest on Koh Tao.
KOH SAMUI — The Appeals Court on Wednesday announced its decision to uphold the death sentences for two migrant workers convicted of a brutal 2014 double homicide on Koh Tao.

In its ruling, made secretly on Feb. 23, the Koh Samui court said evidence presented by the state in the original trial was adequate and reliable, and therefore declined to overturn the December 2015 verdict condemning two Myanmar men to die for the deaths of two British tourists.

The ruling came as a surprise to defense lawyers, who said they had no knowledge the court made a ruling last week, which it apparently relayed to their clients without notification.

“We will definitely petition the Supreme Court,” defense lawyer Nakhon Chompuchart said Wednesday afternoon, adding that he could not comment further because he had not yet seen the decision.

Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, migrant workers on the island, were convicted of the September 2014 murders of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge largely on the basis of DNA traces police said were recovered from the crime scene and Witheridge’s body. 

No other physical evidence or witness testimony directly linked them to the crime.

The defense was never allowed to independently test the evidence on its own, and cast doubt on the integrity of the police investigation. 

The trial came after an investigation widely criticized for unprofessional bungling, and accusations that desperate investigators arrested two men on the margins of society for use as scapegoats.

The two are being held at the Bang Kwang Central Prison in Bangkok and were not in court today.

Unlike the lower court, no witnesses were called during the appeals process; instead, the court simply “reinterpreted” evidence and testimony already entered into the record during trial.

The appeal filed in May by the defense team said the prosecution lacked hard evidence implicating Zaw and Wai, such as documents or photographs. Moreso, it said police collected evidence unlawfully and not in line with international standards.

Police have consistently denied misconduct in their handling of the evidence and rejected accusations that torture was used to extract confessions in the case.

Source: khaosodenglish.com, Sasiwan Mokkhasen, March 1, 2017

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