Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

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…

Former corrections officers seek to block Missouri execution

Missouri's death chamber
COLUMBIA, MO. -- Nearly two dozen former corrections officers from across the country have filed a court brief in support of a Missouri death row inmate's claim that his medical condition could cause an unconstitutionally cruel execution.

Russell Bucklew was sentenced to death in 1997 for killing a southeast Missouri man. Bucklew, 47, has been scheduled for execution twice in the last four years but was granted a stay each time. Bucklew has a rare condition called cavernous hemangioma, which causes blood-filled tumors in his neck and head.

His case is before the Missouri Supreme Court. It's unclear when the court will rule.

Bucklew's attorney, Robert N. Hochman, said in court documents that lethal injection "will not go smoothly."

But Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, in a separate filing, wrote that the growth in Bucklew's mouth had shrunk. Hawley disagreed that the condition presents a risk of suffering under lethal injection.

The Columbia Tribune reports that several briefs were filed on Bucklew's behalf, including one from 23 former corrections officers who turned death penalty opponents. They argue that such a high-risk execution places an unfair burden on corrections workers involved in the execution process.

Some of the corrections officers have witnessed or overseen multiple executions and some have served as executioners themselves.

"It's incredibly traumatic even in the best of circumstances for corrections officers to participate in executions," said Tejinder Singh, the attorney who filed the brief on behalf of the corrections officers. He said the burden is significantly worse when a medical condition comes into play.

"But when, as is here, there is a real risk the execution will be botched because of the inmate's unique medical condition leading to complication, the risk becomes truly intolerable. It becomes extreme and there is no good reason to force public servants into a position of carrying out those executions," Singh said.

Bucklew was convicted of killing Michael Sanders, 27, at his Cape Girardeau County home in front of his children, and kidnapping and raping his ex-girlfriend. A Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper found Bucklew in St. Louis County and Bucklew shot the trooper in a gunfight. The trooper survived.

Bucklew later escaped jail and attacked his ex-girlfriend's mother before being arrested again.

Source: The Associated Press, August 3, 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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