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Pope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible in All Cases

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ROME — Pope Francis has declared the death penalty inadmissible in all cases because it is “an attack” on the “dignity of the person,” the Vatican announced on Thursday, in a definitive shift in Roman Catholic teaching that could put enormous pressure on lawmakers and politicians around the world.
Francis, who has spoken out against capital punishment before — including in 2015 in an address to Congress — added the change to the Catechism, the collection of beliefs for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
The revision says the church would work “with determination” for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide.
“I think this will be a big deal for the future of the death penalty in the world,” said John Thavis, a Vatican expert and author. “People who work with prisoners on death row will be thrilled, and I think this will become a banner social justice issue for the church,” he added.
Sergio D’Elia, the secretary of Hands Off Cain, an association that works to abolish capital puni…

Intellectual disability claim now at the center of decades-old death penalty case before Utah Supreme Court

The execution chamber in Utah State Prison.
A Utah man who has been on death row for nearly 30 years is back in state court fighting his capital murder conviction.

Attorneys for Michael Anthony Archuleta, now 55, argued before the Utah Supreme Court on Wednesday that their client is intellectually disabled, and therefore, legally cannot be executed.

The claim was initially made in a federal court appeal for Archuleta, who has been on Utah's death row since his December 1989 conviction of the brutal murder of 28-year-old Southern Utah State College student Gordon Ray Church.

But because the intellectual disability claim had not been brought before the state courts before, that portion of the federal appeal was sent to the state's highest court for consideration.

Archuleta's attorney, Charlotte Merril, argued Wednesday that her client's previous counsel in state court was "conflicted, underqualified and underfunded" and failed to see the "red flags" of Archuleta's intellectual disability.

Lawyers with the Utah attorney general's office countered by arguing that Archuleta's current attorneys waited until the last possible moment to raise the concern in an effort to further delay appeals that have stretched for decades. He called it a "victory" for a defense team to delay an execution, noting that the 2012 federal appeal has been at a near stand-still since Archuleta's attorneys raised concerns of intellectual disability.

"A guilty person on death row has every incentive to wait until the last possible minute to gum up claims," argued Aaron Murphy, assistant solicitor general.

But Merril disagreed.

"Sitting on death row while intellectually disabled is not a victory," she said.

The Utah Supreme Court took the matter under advisement, and will issue a written ruling. If the high court rejects the arguments - making it the 6th time that the state courts has rejected Archuleta's appeals - the federal appeal will still continue.

On Nov. 21, 1988, then-parolees Archuleta and Lance Conway Wood drove Church to a remote location in Millard County. There, they attached jumper cables to Church's testicles, used the car battery to shock him, raped him with a tire iron, beat him with a car jack and buried him in a shallow grave.

In separate trials, Archuleta and Wood each were convicted of capital murder. Wood was sentenced to life in prison, while Archuleta was sentenced to death.

He is 1 of 9 men currently on Utah's death row.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune, Jessica Miller, January 10, 2018


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