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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

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In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Florida: Death row inmate's upbringing was 'perfect storm' to create problems

Shawn Rogers
A psychologist argued a former Santa Rosa inmate facing the death penalty for the murder of his prison cellmate was raised in a "perfect storm" of factors to make him unstable and impulsive.

In August, Shawn Rogers, 47, was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of 24-year-old Ricky D. Martin. Martin and Rogers shared a cell in the state's Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in 2012, where Rogers bound, beat and stabbed Martin in what was reportedly a racially motivated attack.

After finding Rogers guilty of the murder, a jury unanimously recommended he be sentenced to death. However, Rogers gets the opportunity to present mitigating evidence directly to a judge in a last-ditch effort to be sentenced to life in prison rather than death.

In a hearing Friday morning, Dr. Jethro Toomer — a Miami-based forensic and clinical psychologist — took the stand for the defense and testified that Rogers' childhood trauma had an extremely adverse impact on his development.

Toomer said for children to develop into "normal functioning" adults, they need to grow up in an environment of safety, saneness, nurturance and predictability. He said Rogers had none of these things.

"Not only were (these factors) missing, but the onset was early," Toomer testified. "Mr. Rogers' records reflect at age 2, he was in (protective) placement already."

Toomer said Rogers had bounced between seven foster homes by the age of 9, had been abandoned by his mother and had been exposed to violence. Toomer briefly referenced Rogers suffering "blows to the head," but provided no context for the statement. 

The psychologist said Rogers showed signs of toxic stress disorder, which can occur when a child undergoes constant and prolonged adversity without the support of an adult. He said the disorder impairs the child's development, making them less capable of controlling impulses, of appreciating the consequences of their actions and of weighing alternate solutions to problems.

He described it as a near-perpetual state of fight or flight, noting those with the disorder are "unable to manage stress" and "the human reflex for survival remains elevated or is easily triggered."

Toomer said in decades of experience, he had not seen another individual raised in a "perfect storm" of negative influences like Rogers.

Still, Toomer's assessment was based on one interview with Rogers in October and a partial review of documents related to his case. Toomer admitted on cross examination Rogers had been seen by multiple other doctors, none of whom mentioned toxic stress disorder.

Prosecutors also pointed out that Rogers had been functional enough to represent himself at trial, which required planning, scheduling and questioning witnesses. They also noted Rogers had been capable of premeditation, stating Rogers admitted he plotted to kill a white person in retaliation for the 2012 shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin.

The prosecution and the defense are scheduled to file their positions to Judge John Simon in writing in the coming weeks, with Simon then issuing a sentence at a final hearing. Simon did not set a definitive date for the hearing, but estimated it could come before the end of the month.

Source: Pensacola News Journal, Kevin Robinson, November 3, 2017


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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