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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…

Florida Supreme Court rejects 9 death penalty appeals

Witness room, Florida's death chamber
After similar rulings recently in at least 80 other cases, the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected appeals from nine Death Row inmates.

All of the cases involve inmates who were sentenced to death before a June 2002 cutoff date.

The appeals stemmed from a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hurst v. Florida and a subsequent Florida Supreme Court decision.

The 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found Florida's death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries.

The subsequent Florida Supreme Court ruling said juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty.

But the Florida Supreme Court made the new sentencing requirements apply to cases since June 2002.

That is when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling known as Ring v. Arizona that was a premise for striking down Florida's death-penalty sentencing system in 2016.

In each of the recent cases, the Death Row inmates had been sentenced to death before the Ring decision and argued unsuccessfully that the new unanimity requirements should also apply to their cases.

The inmates who lost appeals Wednesday were Darryl Brian Barwick in a Bay County case; Paul Anthony Brown in a Volusia County case; Milford Wade Byrd in a Hillsborough County case; Louis B. Gaskin in a Flagler County case; Mark Allen Geralds in a Bay County case; Ronald Palmer Heath in an Alachua County case; Thomas Dewey Pope in a Broward County case; Bobby Allen Raleigh in a Volusia County case; and Pablo San Martin in a Miami-Dade County case.

Source: News Service of Florida, February 28, 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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