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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…

Ohio Supreme Court affirms death sentence of only woman on death row

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday reaffirmed the death sentence for the only woman on death row in the state.

The high court ruled 6-1 to uphold the death sentence for Donna Roberts, who was convicted in 2003 of conspiring with her lover to murder her ex-husband, Robert Fingerhut, and collect $550,000 on his life insurance policies.

Roberts, 73, is the only woman on death row in Ohio and is incarcerated at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.

The Supreme Court had previously twice vacated Roberts' sentence.

On the first appeal, the court affirmed Roberts' conviction for aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery but vacated the death sentence because the prosecutor was allowed to help draft the sentencing opinion.

On the second appeal, the court again vacated the death sentence because we concluded that the trial court did not reference in its opinion Roberts' statement that she had suffered head injuries, been raped as a child and experienced hallucinations and therefore didn't consider it during sentencing.

The trial judge had since retired and died, so a new judge sentenced Roberts to death for a third time.

On this appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the sentence. Roberts helped boyfriend Nathaniel Jackson plan Fingerhut's murder in letters and phone calls while he was in prison for an unrelated charge. She bought a mask and gloves for Jackson and let him into the Howland Township home where Fingerhut was killed.

Jackson was also sentenced to death.

Writing for the majority, Justice Terrence O'Donnell said the death penalty was appropriate for Roberts due to her involvement in setting up the crime. O'Donnell disagreed with arguments that allowing a new judge to sentence Roberts was unconstitutional.

Justices Sharon Kennedy, Judith French, Patrick Fischer and Patrick DeWine joined the opinion. Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor concurred in judgment only. Justice William O'Neill concurred in part and dissented in part, citing his opposition to the death penalty in general.

Source: cleveland.com, Jackie Borchardt, May 30, 2017

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