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death penalty news----N.C., S.C., FLA., LA., ARIZ., ORE., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-11-25 16:27:02 UTC
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Nov. 25




NORTH CAROLINA:

Judge to decide on death penalty in 2 cases



A judge will decide on Monday whether or not to pursue the death penalty in 2
murder cases, according to the Burke County Clerk of Courts Office.

Judge Gregory Hayes is set to hold the hearings, known as Rule 24 hearings, for
Gerald Dean Buff and Steven Adam Taylor during Burke County Superior Court.
Both were charged with murder within the last 2 months.

Buff, 61, of Morganton, is accused of stabbing his neighbor Jimmy Ray Causby to
death on Oct. 6. The stabbing happened on Bill Epley Avenue in Morganton, and
Causby was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Burke County
Sheriff's Office.

A witness previously said the stabbing happened after a brief argument over a
stolen welder.

"It all just happened so fast," Rebekah Meise said after the stabbing. "I seen
him stabbing him, but soon as I seen all that, I grabbed my stuff out of his
(Causby) car and tried to get away."

In the Nov. 8 shooting of Kevin Lewis McSheffrey Jr. , Steven Adam Taylor was
charged with his murder. Taylor initially said McSheffrey Jr. was breaking into
his home on Gold Mine Road in Morganton, according to BCSO.

However, evidence gathered at the home led officers to believe that the scene
had been altered. McSheffrey was found dead inside the home, but blood was
found outside, according to court documents.

McSheffrey was the ex-boyfriend of Taylor's current girlfriend, Shanna
Duckworth, the documents said.

Interviews with Taylor and Duckworth led BCSO investigators to believe they
both were impaired when the shooting occurred, the documents said.

Also on Monday, Jamie Basinger is set to appear in court to see whether or not
she will take a plea deal, according to the Burke County Clerk of Courts
Office.

Basinger is charged with involuntary manslaughter and child abuse after her son
froze to death on a porch in March.

Attempts by The News Herald to reach Basinger's attorney, Frank Webster, to
discuss whether she would take a plea were unsuccessful.

(source: The News Herald)








SOUTH CAROLINA:

Death penalty process will become secret if South Carolina's governor gets his
way



If South Carolina doesn't pass a law to keep the drugs it uses for lethal
injections a secret, the state won't be able to carry out its 1st execution in
6 years on Dec. 1. Or at least that's what South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster
spent the week telling state lawmakers.

"Here we are at a dead stop and we can't do anything about it unless and until
our legislature enacts the shield law," McMaster said at an emergency press
conference with the Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling on
Monday.

There's just 1 problem: The scheduled execution of Bobby Stone, 52, on Dec. 1
was never going to happen because a federal court hasn't reviewed his case yet.
McMaster and Sterling created a false sense of urgency to publically call for a
law that would make much of the death penalty procedure in South Carolina a
secret. Stone's execution was stayed - as expected - on Tuesday.

"From where I sit, this looks like political opportunism and an attempt to take
advantage of the public's lack of knowledge about how this works," said Cornell
Law School's Director of Death Penalty Litigation Kier Weyble, who represents
several South Carolina death row inmates. "If the legislature had acted today
and passed a secrecy bill and the governor picked up the phone to his favorite
compounding pharmacy, Stone's execution was still not going to happen. There
was always going to be a stay entered because of where he is in the road of
state and federal review."

Bobby Stone was convicted of killing a police officer in 1997. He has exhausted
his state court appeals, so the state set his Dec. 1 execution date last week.
But he's still entitled to the federal review process, so a federal judge
stayed his case on Nov. 21, as everyone involved, including the state,
expected.

"Bryan Stirling, knew a stay would be issued by the court," Lindsey Vann,
Executive Director of Justice 360, a nonprofit law firm representing Stone,
said in a statement. "[Stirling] nevertheless chose to make public statements
implying otherwise in an attempt to force the General Assembly to pass a
'secrecy' bill that would allow the state to purchase unsafe drugs for
execution and shield their source from the public."

Robert Kittle, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, confirmed
to VICE News that the stay was "expected."

South Carolina - along with many other states that still enforce the death
penalty - hasn't been able to secure the lethal injection drugs necessary to
carry out executions, largely because of the stigma surrounding how they're
used. In an attempt to free up pharmacists and drug manufacturers to sell drugs
to the state without fear of retribution, 15 states have passed shield laws
similar to the one that McMaster and Stirling are pushing for to keep the names
of people involved in the process a secret. Secrecy laws also make information
like the execution team's training, the origin of the drugs being used, and the
lethal injection procedure private.

South Carolina lawmakers did not pass 2 proposed death penalty secrecy bills in
2015 and 2016.

At the press conference on Monday, McMaster and Stirling said that without the
shield law, they would not be able to follow through with Stone's execution.

"The execution date has now been set by the courts for Dec. 1, but we're unable
to do it because we don't have the drugs that are called for in the law to do a
lethal injection," McMaster said.

"We've got a week and a half to come up with the drugs, and right now, we do
not have the drugs," Stirling said. "We're unable to get the drugs, and we're
in an interesting place right now. If the general assembly will pass the law we
believe strongly like other states, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas .... We will be
able to carry out this execution, but right now we are unable to."

By concealing details about the execution process, secrecy laws also make it
more difficult for death row inmates to challenge their sentences in court.
Weyble, the Cornell professor, called the process an "unfair fight."

"It's more difficult to mount a challenge to the method of execution when you
can't find out exactly what kind of method is being used," he said. "They have
to go to the underworld for the tools of their trade because legitimate
providers aren't willing to do business with them. That should bother a person
of conscience."

Gov. McMaster and Director Stirling did not respond to requests for comment.

(source: vice.com)








FLORIDA:

Law changes force dozens of old death penalty, juvenile cases back into
courtrooms



A black teenager, just shy of his 16th birthday, was arrested for raping a
white woman in 1967 in Escambia County.

Lester Simmons pleaded guilty through an agreement with the state that allowed
him to avoid the death penalty.

But had the case been prosecuted today, it would have likely been handled
differently.

After the passage of a new law, Simmons' public defender, Kelly Richards, is
now tasked with proving her client should be released from prison 50 years
later, despite his life sentence.

Richards said the case is rife with racial and social undertones indicative of
the time. A partial transcript from Simmons' trial shows he stayed in the
woman's home for some time after the crime, during which the victim sparked a
conversation with him about how difficult it was to be a black person in that
era.

Now, his defense team will ask a judge to weigh how much those societal factors
affected his sentence and try to prove Simmons, now 66, should be free.

Simmons is one of dozens of offenders in the First Judicial Circuit whose cases
have been reopened this year after two unprecedented Supreme Court decisions.
Both of these decisions have forced prosecutors and defense attorneys to invest
hours of research and additional costs to re-examine the old cases.

The 1st decision brings back the case of every juvenile who has been sentenced
to life in prison. With more research on brain development, the U.S. Supreme
Court decided in 2012 that juveniles should be entitled to special hearings
before a judge to ascertain their crime was heinous enough to warrant a life
sentence, despite certain factors such as their immaturity and family or peer
pressure.

The 2nd decision mandates new penalty phase hearings for all death row inmates
who were sentenced by juries that did not unanimously recommend the death
sentence.

In 2016, the Florida Supreme Court declared the previous law unconstitutional
based in part on the local case of Timothy Hurst. In all of the cases that
warrant a new penalty phase, a new jury will be selected to hear the facts of
the case and determine the death penalty aspect. None of the inmates are at
risk of being released, as the guilt factor of their offense still remains.

The Legislature didn't allocate additional funding to absorb the costs, so the
Public Defender's Office and the State Attorney's Office have instead
authorized overtime, travel costs and shuffled senior attorneys to lower
divisions to help with the additional workload.

While neither the defense nor the state expects other defendants' pending
trials to be pushed back as a result of the strain, both sides agree the burden
is tough, and it has been a slow process.

In the First Judicial Circuit, which covers Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and
Walton counties, the state is dividing 31 juvenile resentencing cases and as
many as 10 death penalty resentencing cases among its attorneys.

"It is a lot of work, and on the death penalty resentencings, we are requesting
2 weeks to try those cases because we expect most of the evidence from the
original trial will have to be presented again in order for the jury to
evaluate the aggravators, the mitigators and the death penalty sentence," State
Attorney Bill Eddins said.

Eddins said juvenile sentencing hearings are being scheduled for between 2 and
5 days.

If each of the cases - both the juvenile sentencing hearings and death penalty
resentenchings - were heard at their maximum and in the same court
consecutively, it would equate to nearly a year dealing with cases affected by
the two new laws - and that doesn't take into account new crimes or pending
cases.

Public Defender Bruce Miller said for each of the death penalty resentencing
cases and juvenile resentencings, his office curates a legal team of a lead
attorney, 2nd chair, mitigation specialist, legal assistant and fact
investigator.

Courts must now review the cases of juveniles serving life sentences and death
row inmates who were sentenced by juries that did not unanimously recommend the
death penalty.

Mitigation specialist Lindsey Johnson is tasked with tracking down old records
for the defendants, finding their families and friends, organizing
psychologists and other experts to testify about brain development, and
locating key witnesses to the original case. For some of the cases, those
witnesses are as recent as 5 years ago, but others case are decades old and the
witnesses have since died.

"With a lot of the older ones especially, one of the guys has no family, it's
hard to find people," Johnson said. "They've been in prison so long that
sometimes even if they do have family they kind of forget about them."

While neither the state nor defense is required to present the same witnesses
or use the same attorney as during the original trial, it's helpful if they
can, Eddins said. To keep up with the strain, his office has brought in
supervisors who usually act as managers to handle cases.

John Molchan, for example, usually oversees felony cases as a supervisor and
serves on the circuit's death penalty assessment board. But he has taken on the
majority of the death penalty resentencing cases as the lead prosecutor.

Miller and Eddins said the state hasn't funneled any additional funding to
either the Public Defender's Office or the State Attorney's Office to help with
the resources and manpower needed to bring back these old cases.

Aside from salaries and overtime allowances, there's travel to speak with
inmates housed in prisons across the state and the cost of bringing in experts
to assess the case and testify.

There hasn't been a cost assessment on the financial impact of the 2 Supreme
Court decisions on local courts, but a conservative estimate for expert defense
witnesses in just one of juvenile resentencing case would be more than $20,000,
Miller said.

"The hours that go into something like this are enormous," Miller said.

He said his office has requested additional attorneys in next year's budget to
help with the workload, but he expects the office will need to work within its
means to accommodate the law shifts.

In the case of Simmons, the black teenager serving a life sentence, the state
and defense must delve into 50 years of law revisions and present an argument
that accurately reflects the sometimes-foggy details they can find in old court
records from 1967. Nowadays, the death penalty wouldn't even be on the table
for a juvenile offender, said Simmons' attorney, Richards.

"These are so time consuming because we have to go back to 1967 to find out
exactly what happened, what may have happened legally in between and different
laws come into play depending on when the original crime occurred, so they're
all different, it's not cookie cutter anything," Richards said.

Several of these cases have already been heard, including the case of Britnee
Miller, who pleaded guilty to killing an acquaintance with her mom and neighbor
in 2010 when she was 16.

During Miller's sentencing hearing in October, Circuit Judge Gary Bergosh heard
of Miller's abusive childhood, of her dependency on her mother and her mom's
approval, and of how Miller has matured in the seven years since the death of
Audreanna Zimmerman. Bergosh took those factors into account, but ultimately
maintained Miller's life sentence.

Another case, that of then-17-year-old Clifford Barth, who helped a group of
friends rob and kill an auto parts employee in 1991, had a different outcome.
Barth served 25 years in prison, and the judge decided in September he should
be released.

In that case, both the state and defense agreed Barth should be released, and
there wasn't much argument by either side. He had no prior record, was
immediately remorseful for his actions and hadn't received any disciplinary
reports during his decades in prison.

The Public Defender's Office isn't dealing with as many of the reopened cases
as the State Attorney's Office because some defendants are represented by
private attorneys or the Public Defender's Office has a conflict of interest.

Still, Miller, the Public Defender, said Johnson's recommended caseload for
death penalty cases is between four and seven, and with the influx, she's over
that recommendation.

"The juvenile resentencing especially is just a seismic shift in the legal
arena, so to speak, and it's still evolving," Richards said. "Cases are coming
out, being appealed, different circuits are handling things different so you've
got to stay on top of the case law."

While some juvenile sentencing hearings have been held in the First Judicial
Circuit since the law shift, the region has yet to see death penalty sentencing
phases heard in local courtrooms.

Eddins said he expects a number of juries to be impaneled in those cases as
soon as next year. Cases like that of Jonathan Lawrence, a mentally ill man who
killed several people in Santa Rosa County, and Willie Hodges, who killed a
Pensacola woman with a claw hammer, have penalty phase trial dates set for next
year already to reassess their death row status.

The others are still being assessed and are going back and forth between state
and defense filings as each tries to keep up with precedents, tracking down
witnesses who thought their involvement in cases were done decades ago, and
working with defendants who may get a second chance at a life outside of
prison.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)








LOUISIANA:

High-profile trials for men facing death penalty in killing of St. John
deputies moved to St. Martin Parish



A judge has decided to move the most high-profile murder trial in recent St.
John the Baptist Parish history to St. Martin Parish.

Judge J. Sterling Snowdy, of 40th Judicial District Court, announced the move
last month for the scheduled Feb. 15 trial of Brian Smith, who faces the death
penalty if convicted. He is accused of having a role in a 2012 shootout that
killed 2 Sheriff's Office deputies.

Snowdy had approved a change of venue in March, calling the St. John courthouse
"the heart of controversy" for the defendant. The judge chose St. Martin Parish
after a visit to the area.

Snowdy's ruling was in response to a motion filed in 2014 by Richard Bourke,
the director of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center and Smith's attorney.
Bourke said his client could not get a fair trial in St. John Parish because of
the "level of community engagement" in response to the shootings.

He cited "the understandable and extensive support for those killed and injured
and their families," noting that the victims also worked for the district
attorney in local drug court.

Death penalty case for man accused of murdering St. John deputies may be moved
out of parish

A judge may decide next week whether to move the most high-profile murder trial
in recent St. John the Baptist Parish history out of the parish.

Deputies Jeremy Triche and Brandon Nielsen were killed during the Aug. 16,
2012, shootout, which happened before dawn at the Scenic Riverview Mobile Home
Park in LaPlace.

Deputies Michael Boyington and Jason Triche were left with permanent
disabilities.

7 people were initially charged. Smith and another defendant, Kyle Joekel, are
the only 2 facing the death penalty. They were indicted in 2012 on 1st-degree
murder and attempted murder charges.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty on the 1st-degree murder charge.

Joekel will be tried separately, but his trial also will be moved.

Aside from Smith and Joekel, only 1 other defendant is awaiting trial.

Brian Smith's father, Terry Smith, was charged with attempted 1st-degree murder
in the shootings. He was sentenced to life in prison last year in connection
with a separate case.

3 other suspects - Derrick Smith; Terry Smith's wife, Chanel Skains; and Brian
Smith's girlfriend, Britney Keith - pleaded guilty as accessories years ago.

The shootout created long-lasting scars in the community. The 2 slain deputies
were both husbands and fathers and well-respected members of the community,
according to witnesses.

Witnesses said the fatal incident began when Boyington, who was working a
security detail, tried to pull Terry Smith over. When the deputy asked for
Smith's driver's license, he instead drove off and gunplay ensued.

In 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center said investigators suspected Terry
Smith was tied to the anti-government "sovereign citizens" movement, a group
whose members deny governmental authority and are sometimes violent toward law
enforcement personnel.

Bourke says his client, Brian Smith, is legally insane.

While the trial is scheduled for February, a ruling on when to move the
proceedings is being appealed.

Bourke argued for the case to be moved immediately, but Snowdy opted to shift
proceedings to St. Martin Parish only once the trial begins.

Snowdy said because the case is so well-known, an immediate move would increase
chances of prejudicing prospective jurors in the other parish, "defeating the
purpose of moving the trial in the first place."

Bourke has appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal.

In the meantime, members of slain Deputy Jeremy Triche's family have asked not
to be contacted by Bourke or any intermediary of his defense team.

It's common for defense teams to have liaisons conduct outreach to victims'
family members, but in this case, the family members argued that was causing
them "emotional distress."

(source: The New Orleans Advocate)








ARIZONA:

Arizona's 40-year experiment with the death penalty has failed



The U.S. Supreme Court will soon consider taking a case that challenges
Arizona's death-penalty law on the grounds that it fails to narrow the
punishment to the worst offenders. Regardless of whether the court accepts it,
the case raises serious questions about the death penalty that the Arizona
Legislature needs to come to grips with.

As the attorney general, I was responsible for overseeing dozens of appeals
from sentences of death. 6 people were executed during my tenure. It was
critical for me that we imposed the ultimate sanction only on those most
deserving.

Tragically, our state has failed in this undertaking in fundamental ways. The
breadth of our statute, capturing nearly every 1st-degree murder, makes it
unconstitutional. But more than that, Arizona's use of the death penalty is bad
policy.

Arizona does not have a good track record for getting it right. At least nine
times our death penalty has swept up the innocent in its net. Nationwide, 160
people have been exonerated from death row. Getting it wrong once is one time
too many. Death, in its finality, means correcting a wrongful sentence is not
an option. Sentencing the innocent to die undermines the public's confidence in
the entire criminal justice system, and is reason alone to abandon the death
penalty.

Moreover, Arizona's death penalty scheme has unsettling racial disparities in
its application. People in Arizona who are accused of murdering white victims
are more likely to receive the death penalty. Hispanic men who are accused of
murdering whites are more than 4 times as likely to be sentenced to death as
white defendants accused of murdering a Hispanic victim. Any other state policy
with that sort of disparity would be quickly repudiated. The Legislature should
end this horrible death penalty malfunction.

The spiraling costs of seeking and imposing a death sentence are further reason
to abandon the policy. These costs have caused the location of the crime to
take precedence over its heinousness. Several counties simply cannot afford to
pursue the death penalty, creating imbalances having nothing to do with the
crime. Maricopa County imposed the death penalty at a rate 2.3 times higher
than the rest of the state between 2010 and 2015. The increased use of the
death penalty was driven, in part, by an overzealous County Attorney, Andrew
Thomas, who later lost his law license for abusing his authority.

The costs associated with defending Arizona's statute (never mind the cases
themselves) have been substantial. Dozens of convictions have been set aside
because Arizona, unlike almost every other state, did not provide for jury
sentencing in capital cases. Arizona was 1 of 2 states to extend the death
penalty to felony murders, leading to a rebuke by the Supreme Court and further
reversals. The Arizona Supreme Court narrowly interpreted our state's
prohibition on executing the intellectually disabled until they were recently
forced to reconsider. And case after case has been reversed because of flaws in
the instructions given in capital sentencing proceedings.

The case now before the Supreme Court is only the latest example of these
problems. But the case itself highlights stunning breadth of Arizona's statute.
Virtually every 1st-degree murder is eligible for the death penalty, leaving
imposition of the death penalty to the unfettered discretion of prosecutors and
juries, causing an intolerable risk of arbitrariness in its administration.

We've been here before. In 1972, the court struck down every state's
death-penalty statute because they operated to execute a "capriciously selected
random handful," rather than the worst offenders. Similar to other states'
efforts, then-state Sen. Sandra Day O'Connor and Rudy Gerber (who later became
an Arizona judge) rewrote Arizona's statute to comply with the court's
narrowing requirements by obligating the prosecutor to prove one or more
aggravating factors before the death penalty could be imposed.

More than 4 decades have passed and we are back to square one. Despite the
efforts of O'Connor and Gerber, Arizona has failed to narrow the application of
the death penalty and has been unable or unwilling to provide the guidance
necessary to ensure that the death penalty is only imposed on the worst
offenders.

Finally, 31 states have abandoned the death penalty. In light of its myriad
problems, Arizona should join the rising tide against imposing it.

(source: Terry Goddard served as the state attorney general from 2003 to 2011
and the mayor of Phoenix from 1984 to 1990. He is senior counsel at Dentons US
LLP----Arizona Daily Sun)








OREGON:

Azalea man accused of double murder refuses to come to court



An Azalea man who is accused of fatally shooting 2 people in the Quines Creek
area in September of 2016, refused to leave his jail cell this week, for a
court hearing in a Douglas County Circuit Courtroom.

Travis LeRoy Bean, 43, is charged with the murder of 55-year-old Larry Porter,
Bean's landlord at the time, and Debbie Perry, 48, a friend of Porter's, on
Sept. 3 of last year.

Bean was scheduled to be in court for a status check on Monday in Judge George
Ambrosini's courtroom, but Bean's attorney, Mark Sabitt of Eugene, said Bean
refused to come out of his jail cell, forcing the judge and attorneys to meet
without him.

The Monday hearing was to find out the status of a motion the state had
submitted in August to obtain records from the state hospital and to disclose
what witnesses might be called during the January hearing and what agreements
the parties might have.

The state filed its motion to allow forced medication of Bean and a hearing on
that motion was originally set for this month, but now the hearing has been
moved to Jan. 11.

The issue, Sabitt said, is whether there is an effective treatment for the
mental illness condition that Bean has and if forced medication can assist in
restoring him to competency.

Several months ago, Sabitt submitted a motion with a psychologist's report to
have Bean sent to the state hospital in Salem, to see if they could help with
Bean's ability to assist in his defense. Bean spent 6 months at the facility
from early January through June.

"The doctors at the state hospital sought an administrative order to force
medicate him with anti-psychotic medication," Sabitt said.

But at a hearing last May, the administrative law judge who heard the case,
denied the request of the state, and the hospital then sent Bean back to
Douglas County with a report that said he was not able to assist his attorneys
and that without an order to force-medicate him, he would never be able to
assist.

Soon after Bean was transported to the state hospital in Salem, he became
displeased with his defense team, which includes Sabitt and co-counsel Daniel
Koenig, who are court-appointed attorneys. Both handle high profile murder and
death penalty cases in Oregon, and soon after Bean was transported to the state
hospital in January, he complained to the Oregon State Bar which investigated
and dismissed the claim.

Bean also wrote letters to Douglas County Circuit Court in an effort to get new
attorneys and Ambrosini denied his request.

Bean has a hearing scheduled in Ambrosini';s courtroom on Dec. 11, where the
court will hear motions related to the evidence anticipated for the January
hearing.

The last few times he has been due in court, he has stayed in his housing unit
at the jail and has refused to come to court.

"I expect that's how he will respond to the hearing that's coming up in
January," Sabitt said.

(source: The News-Review)








USA:

A slow death for capital punishment



The absurdity of the death penalty has been on display across the country this
month.

For the 2nd time in recent years, a condemned killer emerged alive from the
Ohio death house, reported the Columbus Dispatch.

The scheduled execution of twice-convicted killer Alva Campbell was called off
when a medical team with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
could not find 2 viable sites for a lethal injection. Afterward, Governor John
Kasich issued a temporary reprieve and rescheduled Campbell's execution for
2019.

One of Alabama's longest-serving death row inmates, 66-year-old Vernon Madison
was cleared for execution by the United State Supreme Court. He was convicted
in 1985 of killing a Mobile, Alabama police officer, according to the
Birmingham News.

In May 2016, Madison was set to die by lethal injection, but hours after the
scheduled execution the Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding a lower court's
stay of execution.

This month, the High Court unanimously reversed that decision even though
medical staff and prison officials agree that, as of the result of 2 strokes,
Madison cannot remember his crime or why he is on death row.

On the other hand, a Nevada death row inmate whose execution was postponed on
Nov. 14 is complaining to a judge that he's suffering what he calls "an
open-ended and unnecessary delay."

Scott Raymond Dozier is a volunteer. Unlike Campbell and Madison he wants to
die. He was returned to suicide watch - Nevada doesn't want him to kill himself
before they get a chance to kill him. Dozier would become the 1st person
executed in Nevada since 2006.

Court documents show that Dozier sent a Nov. 13 letter asking the judge to lift
a stay of execution that was issued over concerns about the 3-drug lethal
injection protocol that prison officials intended to use, reported the Omaha
World-Herald.

These 3 cases - each unique - are playing out in an era of declining interest
in the death penalty.

19 states and the District of Columbia have abolished capital punishment.
According to the New York Times, 4 more states have imposed moratoriums on
executions. Not only are executions down, death sentences are down as well.
There are 31 states with the death penalty. Only 14 states handed down any
death sentences last year, for a total of 50 across the country - less than 1/2
the number 6 years ago. California, which issued more than 1/4 of last year's
death sentences, hasn't executed anyone since 2006.

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Glossip v. Gross, a case examining
lethal injection. Justice Stephen Breyer noted in a dissent that the decline of
the death penalty county by county could one day persuade the court to end it
everywhere. Breyer's argument was anchored in the Constitution's Eighth
Amendment banning punishment that is "cruel and unusual."

There are signs that the end is near for the death penalty.

Before Roper v. Simmons, the 2005 decision that abolished the death penalty for
juveniles, carrying out a juvenile execution had become an unusual occurrence -
not unlike today's "adult" death penalty.

Prior to 2005, 21 states still had the death penalty for juvenile offenders,
but only one used it with any regularity. Texas executed 13 people who
committed murder as juveniles between 1976 and 2005. Virginia and Oklahoma
followed with 3 and 2 executions, respectively. Those 3 states had carried out
82 % of all executions of juvenile offenders in the United States in the prior
25 years, according to the American Bar Association.

A closer look at the current status of capital punishment is revealing. Just 10
states are responsible for about 83 % of the 1,465 executions since 1976.

Evolving standards of decency in a "mature society" have made the carrying out
of executions increasingly rare nationwide. Last year, there were 20 executions
carried out in the United States. All 20 were carried out in 5 of the 31 states
with capital punishment.

So far in 2017 there have been 23 executions nationwide, with 1 additional
execution scheduled before the end of the year.

(source: Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly &
George P.C. His book The Executioner's Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland
Publishing----wickedlocal.com)

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