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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Death to the death penalty in the U.S.

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Alva Campbell was supposed to die on Nov. 15. That was the date chosen by Ohio, which had convicted and condemned Campbell for murdering a teenager, Charles Dials, during a 1997 carjacking in Columbus, Ohio.
Inside the death chamber that morning, prison officials spent more than an hour searching Campbell's arms and legs for a vein into which they could inject the lethal drug cocktail. They comforted him as they prepared to kill him, providing the 69-year-old with a wedge pillow to help with breathing problems related to his years of heavy smoking.
After about 80 minutes, they gave up and returned Campbell to his cell, where he sits awaiting his next date with death, now set for June 5, 2019.
The pathetic scene was a fitting symbol of the state of capital punishment in America in 2017, a vile practice that descends further into macabre farce even as it declines in use. Campbell would have been the 24th person put to death last year. That's less than 1/4 of the 98 executions c…

Death penalty is no longer needed in Washington

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It is time to abolish the death penalty in Washington state.
A proposal in the Legislature sponsored by state Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, is worthy of support.
Walsh offers strong arguments for ending capital punishment, starting with concern that families must endure the long and emotional appeals process in murder cases. Media coverage opens old wounds. And when the convicted killer is executed, families don't feel vindicated, she said.
"The death penalty is not accomplishing a wonderful relief for these families," Walsh said.
Beyond that, the appeals process is very expensive. A Seattle University study in 2015 found the appeals process in death penalty cases cost $1 million more than keeping the killer in prison for life.
Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has put a moratorium on executions while he is in office. The public reaction, which has been essentially very little, indicates the public either agrees or does not care.
The last execution in Washington was i…

U.S.: Bike Path Terrorism Suspect Seeks Plea Deal to Avoid Death Penalty

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Lawyers for the Uzbek man charged in the truck attack on a crowded Manhattan bike path that killed eight people on Halloween said on Wednesday that their client would plead guilty and accept life imprisonment without parole if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.
The proposal came in an exchange of letters to Judge Vernon S. Broderick of Federal District Court in Manhattan, in which prosecutors were seeking a firm trial date for the defendant, Sayfullo Saipov, arguing that victims and witnesses needed closure, and Mr. Saipov’s lawyer said the best way to obtain closure was through such a plea deal.
The government has not yet said whether it would seek the death penalty for Mr. Saipov, 29, who was indicted on eight capital counts and other charges in the Oct. 31 attack, the deadliest terror attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Saipov has pleaded not guilty.
In the days immediately after the attack, President Trump posted messages on Twitter declaring “SHOULD …

Morocco sentences man to death over MP killing

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Morocco has not abolished the death penalty but has not carried out any executions since 1993.
A Moroccan court sentenced to death a man over the murder of a member of parliament and jailed his widow, in a case involving sex and money, the government said Tuesday.
Abdellatif Merdas, who was a member of the liberal Constitutional Union party, was gunned down near his house in Casablanca in March last year.
A local councillor, Hicham Mouchtari, was sentenced to death on Monday after he was convicted of "premeditated murder", the justice ministry said.
Merdas's widow, Ouafae Bensamadi, was given a life sentence, and a female acquaintance of hers described as a "fortune-teller" was sentenced to 20 years in jail.
According to media reports of the investigation, Bensamadi had been having an affair with Mouchtari, who killed Merdas with the help of a nephew -- who was sentenced Monday to 30 years in jail.
The motives were "sex, money and vengeance," the stat…

Saudi court begins trial of ISIS member who killed his cousin

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The crime shook the kingdom as it was videotaped, and the man's cousin is seen begging for him not to kill him, repeatedly screaming "enough Saad".
Saudi Arabia's Specialized Criminal Court is commencing the trial of the man accused of murdering his cousin. The crime shook the kingdom as it was videotaped, and the man's cousin is seen begging for him not to kill him, repeatedly screaming "enough Saad". The case also caused outrage as it took place on the 1st day of Eid al-Adha in 2014.
Abdul Aziz bin Batel, a lawyer and legal adviser, told Al Arabiya that what the criminal did is a sign of cruelty and corruption in the land, where he purposefully killed a tied up, innocent soul.
Batel said that according to judiciary laws, he who betrays and kills a person who entrusted him should be sentenced to death, with no punishment or amnesty to be accepted by any means.
The General Authority of the Supreme Court studied the case to find the most fitting punishme…

India: Experts say lethal injection is not an alternative to hanging

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Although the law commission report discussed whether the discretion of mode of execution should lie with the judge or the convict, the question of who would provide the injections to convicts remains unanswered.
A lawyer had filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of a provision in the Criminal Procedure Code which provides that the mode of execution of death penalty would be hanging by the neck. The SC, however, said that it's the Centre's prerogative to decide the modes of carrying out capital punishment. "We can't say what should be the mode of carrying out a death sentence. Tell us what is happening in other countries," the apex court asked the Centre. In its reply, the Centre said lethal injection was "not workable" as there were several instances of it failing.
Rishi Malhotra, the petitioner, said the provision of Criminal Procedure Code stating death penalty is "violative of Article 21 (right to life and…

Execution of Juvenile Offender Postponed in Iran

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Iran Human Rights (Jan 17, 2018): The execution of Abolfazl Chezahi Sharahi, a juvenile-offender who was in a death-row to be executed this morning at Qom Central Prison, was delayed for unknown reasons. 
A day before, the IHR and other international organizations called for immediate action of the international community. 
According to a close source, authorities had informed Abolfazl Chezahi Sharahi’s family that his execution was scheduled to be carried out on Wednesday, January 17. 
However, the execution of this juvenile-offender was delayed today for unknown reasons and he still stays in danger of execution.
Abolfazl is sentenced to death on the charge of murder during a street fight. 
He was born on January 16, 1999, and he was only 15 at the time of committing the crime on December 26, 2013.
His public defender asked for a checkup by the forensics on July 20, 2014, and the forensics report states: “The 15-year-old defendant who committed murder last winter, is mentally mature…

Houston killer facing execution this week admitted to 2 more slayings in morbid hoax

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He didn't scream or laugh. He didn't plead or apologize.
Anthony Shore was calm, almost stoic, when he confessed to the murders - just like he was 20 years ago.
But this time, apparently, it was a lie.
Days before his aborted execution in October, the notorious Houston serial killer admitted to 2 more gruesome slayings in an apparent ruse to test investigators, sources familiar with the case told the Chronicle this week. Now, he's scheduled once again to meet his fate Thursday in Huntsville's death chamber, leaving behind a swirl of unanswered questions.
"With a serial killer like Shore, there is always a possibility he has committed other crimes, left other unknown victims behind," said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.
At the moment, prosecutors said, he's officially not a suspect in any unsolved killings and has no unresolved appeals.
After 4 brutal strangulations, a pair of apparently false confessions, a bizarre death row plot and a slew of c…

UN rights experts call on Iran to halt execution of second juvenile offender in as many weeks

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GENEVA (16 January 2018) – UN human rights experts* have appealed to Iran to halt the execution of Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi, who was 15 when he was sentenced to death. He is due to be executed on Wednesday [Jan. 17], less than two weeks after the execution of another juvenile offender.
“The Iranian authorities must immediately halt the execution of this juvenile offender and annul the death sentence against him and afford him a fair trial in compliance with their international obligations,” the experts said. “This planned execution represents a flagrant disregard for international human rights law, which is all the more shocking given the most recent execution of another juvenile offender.”
Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday for a crime that he was convicted of committing at the age of 15. He was sentenced to death in 2014 after being convicted of murder for the fatal stabbing of a man during a fight. In sentencing him to death, the court cited an exper…

U.S.: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with clerk hires, signals desire to outlast Trump

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(CNN) - Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg marks her 25th anniversary on the Supreme Court this year, and the cultural icon known as the "Notorious RBG" recently signaled that she intends to stay at least through 2020 by hiring law clerks for at least two more terms.
Ginsburg, who turns 85 in March, would have to stay another decade to near the record of William O. Douglas, who served the longest at 36 years. But Ginsburg has already distinguished herself among justices for an intriguing second act, the product of pop culture passion.
If Democrat Hillary Clinton had won the presidency in 2016, liberal Ginsburg would likely have announced her retirement by this spring. Instead the justice who made her name as a women's rights lawyer in the 1970s apparently is not counting on leaving the stage any time soon.
The law clerk news, reported by Above the Law, triggered a tweet storm through the weekend, some of which included links to a classic 2016 Saturday Night Live "Gins-bur…