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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…

Ohio lawmakers should keep the seriously mentally ill off death row: editorial

Ohio's death chamber
The Ohio General Assembly should pass a bipartisan bill forbidding Ohio to give a death sentence to someone convicted of aggravated murder - but also found to have a serious mental illness. He or she would instead be sentenced to life imprisonment, which is far more reasonable and compassionate.

Ohioans to Stop Executions and other death penalty opponents on Thursday called on Gov. John Kasich and state lawmakers to not resume executions next month and to pass legislation prohibiting death sentences for mentally ill murderers.

State Sens. John Ecklund, a Munson Township Republican, and Sandra Williams, a Cleveland Democrat, are lead sponsors of Senate Bill 40, which defines "serious mental illness" as schizophrenia; schizoaffective disorder; bipolar disorder; major depressive disorder; or delusional disorder."

Ohio already has a Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity defense. But retired Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, a Republican, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that NGRI "often does not apply ... [when] individuals ... may know what they have done is wrong, but their delusional thinking may cause them to believe they are impervious to punishment or that some greater force compels them to act."

Under SB 40, if a court ruled that a defendant was ineligible for the death penalty due to a major mental illness, he or she would have to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole; life imprisonment with parole eligibility after serving 25 or 30 full years in prison; or, in certain instances, an indefinite sentence of 30 years to life.

In December, according to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, there are 627 Ohio inmates serving life sentences without parole, while 140 other inmates are on Ohio's death row. SB 40 would create a limited-time procedure -only during the first 365 days after the bill became law - for re-sentencing to a life sentence someone already sentenced to death, if that inmate could prove he or she had a serious mental disorder at the time of the crime.

According to the Legislative Service Commission, the Ecklund-Williams bill embodies one of 56 recommendations made by a death penalty task force commissioned by Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Greater Cleveland Republican. Senate Bill 40 is common-sense, bipartisan - and humane. The Senate and House should send it to Gov. John R. Kasich's desk - soon.

Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer, Editorial Board, January 3, 2018


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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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