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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…

Execution halted for man convicted in Texas real estate agent's murder

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday halted the execution of a man convicted in the murder of a McKinney real estate agent in 2007.

Another Texas execution has been stopped by the state’s highest criminal appellate court, giving relief to the man convicted in 2007 in the robbery and murder of a McKinney real estate agent.

Kosoul Chanthakoummane, 36, was scheduled to die on July 19 after more than nine years on death row. He was convicted in the 2006 stabbing death of Sarah Walker in the model home of a subdivision where she worked, according to court documents. On Wednesday morning, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay of execution and sent his case back to the Collin County trial court to review claims of discredited forensic sciences.

On July 8, 2006, a couple coming to view the model home found Walker dead, stabbed 33 times with a bite mark on her neck, according to a federal court filing. Her watch and ring were missing from her body. Bloody fingerprints found at the scene and DNA under Walker’s fingernails linked the crime to Chanthakoummane, who was arrested nearly two months later.

Chanthakoummane told police he went to a model home after his car broke down, and that he had cuts on his hands that could explain his blood at the scene, according to the filing. At trial, the state presented forensic experts who claimed the bite mark on Walker’s neck and DNA at the scene pointed to Chanthakoummane.

In 2016, a White House report concluded forensic bite-mark evidence was not scientifically valid.

This is the third time the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted a scheduled execution this year (two of those scheduled executions were for the same man, Tilon Carter). Another execution was halted by a federal court.

There have been four executions in the state this year.

Source: Texas Tribune, Jolie Mccullough, June 7, 2017

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