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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

Rights group renews criticism of death penalty in Japan

Japan executed 3 people last year and imposed 3 new death sentences in what Amnesty International has also described as a secretive system.

A global report on death sentences and executions for 2016 cited the executions last March of Yasutoshi Kamata, 75, and Junko Yoshida, 56, and the November execution of Kenichi Tajiri, 45. All 3 were hanged, with Yoshida the 1st woman to be executed in Japan since 2012.

The figure was unchanged from 2015, when 3 prisoners were also hanged.

In its report, Amnesty said Japan imposed 3 new death sentences in 2016 and 141 people remained on death row as of the end of the year. Of these, 129 had their death sentence finalized, it said.

The human rights group also renewed its criticism of Japan's practice of executing people with mental or intellectual disabilities, while highlighting that the country and the U.S. were the only members of the Group of 7 developed nations to carry out executions.

Amnesty said in November that "secretive executions can't hide the fact that Japan is on the wrong side of history when it comes to the death penalty."

"Executions in Japan are shrouded in secrecy with prisoners typically given only a few hours' notice, but some may be given no warning at all. 

Their families, lawyers and the public are usually notified about the execution only after it has taken place," it said.

Last October, the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations formally issued a declaration stating its opposition to the death penalty and calling for authorities to abolish the punishment by 2020 and replace it with life imprisonment.

The move set the legal profession against the government, which has executed 17 people since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in 2012.

Source: Japan Times, April 11, 2017

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