Time Magazine's Death Penalty Issue: a Year Later

It's been about a year since Time Magazine put the Death Penalty on its cover, with an analysis of capital punishment in this country and the reasons why the Death Penalty is dying here.

 

 

Let's Read It Again and Consider What's Happened.

It's a good read.  Now, here's the question -- does it hold up a year later, given that we're seeing lots of things happening regarding the death penalty in this country.  Things like:

  • Arizona and Ohio not able to execute with lethal injection because they can't find the drugs to do it? 
  • And Arkansas has just seen its high court rule that executions may proceed there? 
  • And Florida's death penalty scheme is once again being challenged as unconstitutional?

The five reasons listed by Time Magazine's David Von Drehle:

  1. Not getting better at execution.
  2. Crime rate plunged.
  3. Dwindling justifications.
  4. Governments are going broke.
  5. SCOTUS

Read it again.  See what you think.

 

 

How Long Is Too Long to Sit on Death Row? SCOTUS Agrees to Hear Cruel and Unusual Argument

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear a case coming out of Texas, where a man was sentenced to die over 36 years ago.

Bobby James Moore faced a jury and a death penalty sentence back in 1980 for the killing of a store employee during an armed robbery of a grocery store in Houston, Texas.

Bobby James Moore has faced execution every day since then.  That's been 36 years of facing death.

How Long is Too Long to Wait To Execute Someone on Death Row?

Now, Mr. Moore's lawyers are arguing that being in this position for three and a half DECADES is cruel and unusual punishment.  

His constitutional rights have been violated because the Eighth Amendment protects him, and all citizens against cruel and unusual punishment. 

Is 15 Years in Solitary Confinement Awaiting Death Against the Constitution?

Important fact here:  since 2001, Mr. Moore has lived in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.  Alone, in a cell, every day 365 days a year, for the past 15 years.

(Moore also has a second issue before SCOTUS.  He's also arguing that the Eighth Amendment has been violated in his case because of the use of antiquated medical testing on his intellectual abilities in order to allow him to be executed at all.)

Read Moore's Petition as provided by SCOTUS blog here.

 

Annual Fast and Vigil Begins on June 29 in Washington DC

 

Each year, people who are opposed to the death penalty in this country come to the nation's capital to make their position known to the Powers that Be.

Fast and Vigil Begins on June 29

This year, beginning on June 29, 2016, and continuing through to July 2, 2016, they will be gathered at the steps of the United States Supreme Court in what's known as the annual Fast and Vigil. 

People come from all over the globe to the Fast and Vigil.  This will be its 23rd year, and you may need to register in order to attend some of the bigger events (there's speakers and lectures, all sorts of stuff). 

If you're interested in learning more about it, check out the details on the website,  as well as the resources provided by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP). 

Louisiana Executions on Hold for Now

The problem with lethal injection executions these days is that demand exceeds supply.  In a big, big way. 

Louisiana Death Penalty On Hold Because of Drug Supply for Lethal Injections

So much so that the State of Louisiana has put all its scheduled executions on hold while federal proceedings move forward that challenge the state's execution method. 

The Louisiana Department of Corrections has run out of drugs needed for executions and the Tulsa compounding pharmacy that was to be its new source of supply has run into big trouble over in Oklahoma.  Seems its facing thousands of allegations that it has violated state pharmacy regulations as it sold execution drugs to other states, like Missouri.

For details on the story, check out this article from the Death Penalty Information Center. 

And read our earlier posts about compounding pharmacies, too, like this one out of Georgia.

 

SCOTUS - Latest Death Penalty Opinions

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States issued two opinions that deal with capital punishment in this country. 

May 31 SCOTUS Death Penalty Opinions: Tucker and Lynch

Read them here:

The first one, coming out of Louisiana, upheld the death penalty sentence.  The second one, coming from Arizona, went against the death penalty in that case.

So, what can we learn from these two cases?  Well, reading and comparing them gives us a pretty clear picture of where the Justices stand on the issue.

In the Arizona case, Justices Thomas and Alito dissent.  They would have kept the man, Shawn Patrick Lynch, on Death Row based in part on the "sheer depravity" of the underlying homicide. (The majority ruled based upon the failure of the jury to be instructed that the sole option to a death sentence was life without parole.)

In the Louisiana case, Justices Breyer and Ginsberg dissent.  They looked to the geographical origins of the conviction, Caddo Parish, where almost "half the death sentences in Louisiana" arise even though "only 5% of that State's population" comes from there.

Death Row petitioner Lamondre Tucker might not have received the death penalty if he had been tried in another part of the state, and accordingly the dissenters would have granted his petition.

Importantly, Breyer and Ginsberg come right out and suggest that the High Court needs to re-consider its position on the death penalty, and if capital punishment is cruel and unusual punishment and therefore, unconstitutional. 

The big deal?  The empty seat. 

Why Should We Care About These Two Cases?

What will happen to the death penalty when someone finally puts on those black robes and starts to work in the place left by the recent death of Justice Scalia?  We read these opinions for clues, and ponder the future. 

What does the New York Times think? That these cases support the current position of SCOTUS;  they won't declare the death penalty unconstitutional, but they will work to find ways to limit its usage.  Do you agree?

 
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