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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…

Nevada Man Released from Death Row After Evidence Reveals Innocence of 1988 Murder

Ha’im Al Matin Sharif (AKA Charles Robins)
A Nevada man was released from death row last week after nearly 29 years in prison for a murder evidence now shows he did not commit.

Ha’im Al Matin Sharif (AKA Charles Robins) was convicted in 1988 and sentenced to death for the murder of his girlfriend’s 11-month-old baby girl. 

A medical examiner testified the child had been physically abused and ultimately murdered. The child’s mother testified that Sharif physically abused the child.

Sharif filed many appeals and in 2011, the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the District of Arizona began a review of his case. 

Attorney Cary Sandman noticed that the child’s injuries were consistent with Barlow’s disease (infantile scurvy). 

Medical experts reviewed the evidence and agreed. Sandman also discovered some of the child’s injuries occurred before Sharif was living with the child’s mother.

Sandman then interviewed the child’s mother, who said her testimony was false and she had never seen Sharif abuse the child. She later recanted her testimony, saying she agreed to lie in court after police threatened to take away her surviving children.

After an evidentiary hearing and a statement from another doctor agreeing the baby died from Barlow’s disease, prosecutors began negotiations for a deal. 

In the end, Sharif agreed to an amended conviction of second-degree murder and a reduction of his sentence to time served. Had he chosen to go back to trial, he could face more years of incarceration and possibly another death sentence.

Sharif told the Arizona Republic that he is looking forward to building a future for himself in Washington state, where he will move in with relatives.

“I have a level of optimism,” he said. “But I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Read the Arizona Republic article here.

Source: Innocence Project, June 15, 2017

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