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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…

Alabama death row inmate Robert Melson granted stay of execution by federal appeals court

Robert Melson
Robert Melson
A federal appeals court granted a stay of execution Friday for Robert Melson, who was scheduled to be put to death Thursday for the shootings of three fast food employees at a Popeye's in Etowah County in 1994. 

Melson is challenging his execution on grounds that the three-drug cocktail Alabama uses for lethal injections "has failed to work properly."

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued the stay so it can rule on Melson's challenge, which is also being appealed by four other death row inmates.

"To enable us to process these consolidated appeals in an orderly fashion, we grant Melson's application for a stay," the court said in its ruling. "His execution is accordingly stayed pending our resolution of these appeals."

Melson's attorney, John Palombi, said in a statement sent to AL.com that he was "pleased with the ruling.

"This allows the court to take time deciding the important issues surrounding Alabama's execution protocol, particularly whether the present protocol violates the Constitution," he said.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall's office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Melson has been on death row since May 1996. He was convicted along with Cuhuatemoc Peraita in the shooting deaths of fast-food employees Tamika Collins, 18, Nathaniel Baker, 17, and Darrell Collier, 23, during a robbery of a Gadsden's Popeye's restaurant. 

A fourth person, Bryant Archer, was shot four times but survived; Archer identified Melson as the shooter in the incident.

Source: al.com, Howard Koplowitz, June 2, 2017

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