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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 says it has no source for drug if inmates delay executions

Arkansas' Death Chamber
Arkansas' Death Chamber
LITTLE ROCK — Lawyers for the state of Arkansas are telling a federal court that delaying eight executions beyond April 30 would have the same effect as canceling them altogether.

Arkansas recently replaced an outdated potassium chloride supply, but in court papers Monday said it has no source for midazolam after its current stock expires at the end of the month.

To meet the deadline, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has scheduled eight executions in an 11-day period beginning April 17. No state has executed that many people in so short a time since the U.S. Supreme Court reauthorized the death penalty in 1976.

Arkansas has not executed a prisoner since 2005 because of legal challenges and drug shortages.

The inmates say the state is denying them sufficient time to bring meaningful clemency requests.

Ahead of the scheduled executions, Hutchinson on Monday said he continues to review legal briefs for the inmates.

“I’m taking those one at a time to make sure that each gets the individual attention that is appropriate,” the governor told reporters.

Hutchinson said it is also important to “balance the conversation,” taking into consideration the victims of the crimes.

When asked whether clemency is still possible for any of the eight death-row inmates, the governor said he will look through recommendations and will make a decision at a later date.

“These cases have all been through over 10 to 15 years of review in the courts. There’s not really any question of guilt in these cases,” Hutchinson said. “The significance and horrendous nature of the crimes are the reasons that jury gave that penalty.”

The inmates — Bruce Ward, Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams, Stacey Johnson, Jack Jones and Jason McGehee — are set to die over a span starting April 17 and ending April 27.

Sources: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, The Associated Press, April 3, 2017

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