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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…

Japan: Court orders retrial of deceased man convicted in 1984 murder over forced confession

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OTSU, Shiga -- A court has ordered a retrial for a deceased man who was convicted of murdering a 69-year-old woman in 1984 in western Japan, endorsing new evidence and suspecting that he was forced into confession after being beaten by police officers.

The decision by the Otsu District Court in Shiga Prefecture on Wednesday quashed the Osaka High Court's ruling in 2011 that dismissed Hiromu Sakahara's plea for a retrial. Sakahara died the same year, and in 2012, his family filed a second retrial petition with the district court.

It is believed to the first time a Japanese court has ordered a retrial sought by the family of a deceased convict.

Sakahara was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison on charges he killed Hatsu Ikemoto, a liquor store manager in Hino, Shiga, and seized her cash box.

After being arrested and indicted in 1988, Sakahara argued that his original confession during the investigation was made under coercion. The focal point of the trial was the method of the murder and whether Sakahara's confession was credible.

The family's defense team claimed it was impossible to murder the woman in the way Sakahara had explained in his confession, and as new evidence, submitted a lab result by a forensic doctor.

The new evidence showed the woman had been knocked down on her back and strangled, while Sakahara had confessed to strangling her from behind.

The district court weighed the evidence and supported the defense team's claim that wounds on the woman's body did not match the way Sakahara had said he murdered her.

The court also denied the credibility of his confession, the strongest evidence for his conviction, suspecting he was forced to confess after police beat him and threatened to harm his family.

In 1995, the district court found Sakahara guilty and sentenced him to life in prison. The high court and the Supreme Court later upheld the ruling, finalizing his conviction in 2000.

Source: Japan Today, July 12, 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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