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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…

Louisiana seeks 1-year extension in halt to executions

Louisiana's death chamber
Louisiana authorities are seeking a court order that would rule out any executions in the state for at least one more year.

A lawsuit challenging the state's lethal injection protocols has blocked Louisiana from carrying out any death sentences since 2014. Its last execution was in 2010.

In a court filing Wednesday, an attorney for the state asked for a 12-month extension in the court order temporarily staying all executions.

Jeffrey Cody, the state's lawyer, says litigating the case now would be "a waste of resources and time." He asked U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick to postpone a July 17 status conference for the litigation and extend the court-ordered halt in executions for 1 additional year "because the facts and issues involved in this proceeding continue to be in a fluid state."

"It is hoped that, by July 2019, the facts and issues ultimately to be litigated will have become more settled and the parties will then be in a better position to proceed forward with the litigation," Cody wrote.

Dick didn't immediately rule on Cody's request. The case was reassigned to Dick in January after the death of U.S. District Judge James Brady, whose order had temporary blocked all executions.

Drug shortages have forced Louisiana's corrections department to rewrite its execution plan several times since 2010. Under the current execution protocols, the state's primary method is a single-drug injection of pentobarbital, a powerful sedative. The alternative method is a 2-drug combination of the painkiller hydromorphone and the sedative midazolam. The corrections department has none of those drugs in its inventory, according to department spokesman Ken Pastorick.

Louisiana has 71 inmates on death row. The state's last execution was in January 2010, when prison officials put to death Gerald Bordelon, who was convicted of killing his 12-year-old stepdaughter in 2002.

Gary Clements, an attorney for a convicted child killer who sued to block his execution, said the state's request is "probably pretty reasonable under the circumstances" given the "fluid" state of the litigation.

Source: The Associated Press, 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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