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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…

Arkansas judge blocks state from using lethal drug

Death-penalty opponents on the front steps of Arkansas' Capitol to protest the state's plan to execute seven inmates before the end of April.
Death-penalty opponents on the front steps of Arkansas' Capitol to protest
the state's plan to execute seven inmates before the end of April.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Latest on Arkansas' efforts to execute seven inmates before the end of the month (all times local): 

7 p.m.


An Arkansas judge has blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug in its upcoming executions of six men after a company says the drug wasn't sold to be used for capital punishment.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order Friday preventing Arkansas from using its supply of vecuronium bromide in the executions. 

The executions have been scheduled to start Monday night.

McKesson, a medical supply company, has said the prison system bought the drug believing it would be used for medical purposes. 

The company has said it had been reassured the drug would be returned and even issued a refund, but it never was.

Griffen's order came the same day the state Supreme Court halted the execution of one of two men scheduled to die Monday night.

5:55 p.m.


The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted the execution of one of two inmates facing lethal injection Monday under the state's multiple execution plan.

Justices on Friday issued a stay in the execution of Bruce Ward, one of seven inmates the state plans to put to death before the end of the month. Ward's attorneys had asked for the stay after a Jefferson County judge said she didn't have the authority to halt Ward's execution.

Arkansas has scheduled the executions to occur before the state's supply of midazolam, one of three drugs used in its lethal injection protocol, expires at the end of the month. The inmates have filed a flurry of lawsuits in state and federal court to halt the executions.

2 p.m.


Death-penalty opponents are gathered on the front steps of Arkansas' Capitol to protest the state's plan to execute seven inmates before the end of the month.

The actor Johnny Depp appeared alongside Damien Echols, who spent nearly 18 years on Arkansas' death row before he was freed in 2011 in a plea deal in which he maintained his innocence. Depp was among several celebrities who lobbied for the release of Echols and the two other men convicted in the "West Memphis Three" case.

The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty's Friday rally comes as a federal judge weighs whether to grant the inmates' requests to block their upcoming executions. The first executions are set for Monday night.

Source: The Associated Press, April 14, 2017

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