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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…

Oklahoma, Business Groups Get Supreme Court Review in Murder Case

Oklahoma
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an unusual death penalty case that could have outsize implications for businesses operating in Oklahoma.

The justices will review a lower court decision that stripped Oklahoma of the power to prosecute American Indians in much of the eastern part of the state. The ruling also called into question Oklahoma's regulatory authority in historically tribal territories.

Business groups and the Trump administration joined Oklahoma in urging Supreme Court review. Oklahoma told the justices the federal appeals court decision "will impose intolerable and destabilizing uncertainty throughout half the state."

In throwing out Patrick Dwayne Murphy's death sentence, the appeals court said that only the federal government had the power to prosecute him because the murder Murphy committed took place on land that is still part of the Creek Nation reservation.

The 3-judge panel said in a 126-page opinion that Congress didn't take the necessary steps to "disestablish" the Creek reservation in preparation for Oklahoma becoming a state in 1907.

"Because Mr. Murphy is an Indian and because the crime occurred in Indian country, the federal court has exclusive jurisdiction," the panel said. "Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction."

Murphy was convicted of the 1999 mutilation and murder of his former girlfriend's lover, George Jacobs. Both men were members of the Creek Nation.

Five Tribes


Although the Murphy case directly concerns only the Creek Nation, the appeals court's reasoning could also affect land once inhabited by the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole tribes, which have similar histories.

Murphy's lawyers urged the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal. They said the appeals court correctly relied on a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that requires Congress to show a clear intent to change a reservation's boundaries.

The Trump administration said the ruling would upend century-old understandings. The U.S. government would suddenly have exclusive responsibility to prosecute crimes committed by or against Native Americans in most of 8 counties, including the city of Tulsa, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco told the court.

"That expansion could result in a massive increase in the federal government's Indian-related law-enforcement responsibilities," Francisco argued in court papers.

Trade groups for the Oklahoma oil and gas, ranching and farming industries said the ruling also would reverberate outside the criminal context, stripping power from the state and giving it to Native American tribes. The groups said tribes would potentially be able to impose taxes, issue regulations and force businesses and individuals into tribal courts.

The case is Royal v. Murphy, 17-1107.

Source: Associated Press, May 22, 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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