America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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…

US Supreme Court rejects 2 Mississippi death row appeals

Stephen Breyer
JACKSON, MISS. - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected appeals from two Mississippi death row inmates.

However, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, Margaret Ann Morgan, said Richard Gerald Jordan and Timothy Nelson Evans have additional appeals remaining. Neither has an execution date, and "neither is cleared for execution," by the Supreme Court decision, Morgan said.

Jordan , now 72, has been on death row longer than any Mississippi inmate. He was sentenced to death in 1976 for the kidnapping and killing of Edwina Marter earlier that year in Harrison County.

Mississippi Supreme Court records show Jordan traveled from Louisiana to Gulfport, Mississippi, where he called Gulf National Bank and asked to speak to a loan officer. After he was told Charles Marter could speak with him, Jordan ended the call, looked up Marter's home address in a telephone book, went to the house and got in by pretending to work for the electric company.

Records show Jordan kidnapped Edwina Marter, took her to a forest and shot her, then later called her husband and demanded $25,000, saying she was safe.

Jordan is among the inmates challenging Mississippi's lethal injection procedure, with a federal trial set for Aug. 27.

Evans , now 61, was convicted in 2013 for the 2010 killing of Wenda Holling in Hancock County. Court records show Evans had previously been romantically involved with Holling but was living in her home as a tenant when he strangled her. Investigators found Evans used Holling's credit card after her death.

Mississippi's last execution was in June 2012.

In a dissent Thursday, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the cases of Jordan and Evans illustrate what he had previously written in other death penalty cases — that the death penalty, as applied in the U.S. today, involves "unconscionably long delays, arbitrary application and serious unreliability."

Breyer wrote that the Supreme Court should consider an argument made by Jordan, that execution after decades on death row violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Breyer also wrote that Jordan and Nelson were both sentenced to death from the 2nd Circuit Court District, and that Evans' attorneys said the district on the Gulf Coast accounts for "the largest number of death sentences" among Mississippi's 22 circuit court districts since 1976. Breyer said that shows the arbitrary application of the death penalty.

Jordan's attorney, Jim Craig, said it's notable that Breyer analyzed the Mississippi cases and found "evidence for the abolition of the death penalty."

Source: Miami Herald, Associated Press, June 28, 2018

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