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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…

Ohio: Robert Seman jumps to his death at courthouse

Robert Seman
Robert Seman
Robert Seman has thrown himself off the fourth floor of the Mahoning County Courthouse and is dead.

Seman had a status hearing in his death penalty case and threw himself off the balcony onto the floor of the rotunda.

A Vindicator reporter witnessed the jump.

“He must have made his mind up.” That's how Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene reacted after Robert Seman jumped to his death from the fourth floor of the county courthouse Monday morning.

According to Greene, deputies were in the process of escorting Seman to a holding cell at the time.

“It seemed like he was in good spirits. He was talking about the future of his trial and he just decided to jump,” said Greene.

Seman was dressed in civilian clothes and not wearing restraints due to rules covering defendants appearing in court, according to Greene.

Seman faced the death penalty if convicted of the March 30, 2015, deaths of Corinne Gump, 10, and her grandparents, William and Judith Schmidt, in an arson at their Powers Way home the day Seman was to go on trial for raping the girl.

Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa, lead prosecutor on the case, said that she thinks "it's telling" that Seman leaped to his death instead of taking his chances at trial.

Cantalamessa said she is surprised because Seman had proclaimed his innocence and there was no mention of any problems by his attorneys.

She said she was looking forward to trying the case because the evidence was strong and that the case just about fits every specification for the death penalty.

Jury orientation in Seman's capital murder trial was to begin April 12 in Portage County Common Pleas Court.

The trial of Seman, 48, of Green, was being moved to Portage County after attempts to pick a jury in September and January in Mahoning County were unsuccessful because of pretrial publicity.

The bodies of 10-year-old Corrine Gump and those of her grandparents, Bill and Judy Schmidt, were found in their burning home on Powers Way in Youngstown on March 30, 2015.

The fire was later ruled arson and Seman was charged with murder.

Sources: Youngstown Vindicator, wfmj.com, April 10, 2017

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