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domenica 9 agosto 2015

US - Justices speak out about death penalty, but executions go on

Philly.com
Washington - Wherever their summer travels have taken them, Supreme Court justices probably will weigh in over the next few days on Texas' plans to execute two death-row inmates in the week ahead.
If past practice is any guide, the court is much more likely to let the lethal-injection executions to proceed than to halt them.

The United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States
Opponents of the death penalty took heart when Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the case against capital punishment in late June as arbitrary, prone to mistakes, and time-consuming. Even if death-penalty opponents eventually succeed, the timeline for abolition probably will be measured in years, not months.

That's because Breyer, joined by Ginsburg, was writing in dissent in a case involving death-row inmates in Oklahoma, and five sitting justices, a majority of the court, believe "it is settled that capital punishment is constitutional," as Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in his opinion for the court in that same case.

In February, Gov. Wolf put a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania, though no inmate has been put to death here since 1999. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams then sued, asking the state Supreme Court to overturn Wolf's order. New Jersey does not use the death penalty, abolishing it in 2007.

Texas has scheduled back-to-back executions Wednesday and Thursday for Daniel Lee Lopez and Tracy Lane Beatty.

Lopez was convicted of running over a Texas police officer with his car during a chase. Lopez's lawyer already has asked the court to stop the execution.

Beatty strangled his 62-year-old mother, then stole her car and drained her bank accounts. He has an appeal pending in lower courts and could also end up at the Supreme Court.

The justices rarely issue last-minute reprieves to death-row inmates. Even after Breyer's opinion calling for a reexamination of capital punishment by the Supreme Court, no justice publicly backed a Missouri inmate's plea to halt his execution to allow the court to take up the constitutionality of the death penalty.

The heightened attention on the death penalty comes amid declining use of capital punishment in the United States, and a sharp drop in the number of death-penalty prosecutions.

The 18 executions that have taken place so far this year have been carried out in just five states - Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, and Oklahoma. Nine of those were in Texas. In May, the Nebraska legislature abolished the death penalty in that state.

Twelve states with the death penalty have not had an execution in more than five years. That list includes California and Pennsylvania, which between them have more than 900 death-row inmates.

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