The Future of the Death Penalty seems Grim…

Missouri is putting the administration of the Death Penalty on hold pending an appeal. As reported by the Associated Press, The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday put on hold the execution of a Missouri man convicted of beating three people to death with a claw hammer while a lower court considers an appeal.

Ernest Lee Johnson claims the execution drug could cause painful seizures because he still has part of a benign tumor in his brain, and surgery to remove the rest of the tumor in 2008 forced removal of up to 20 percent of his brain tissue.

The Supreme Court granted a stay while the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considers whether his complaint was properly dismissed. It wasn’t immediately clear how quickly the appeals court might rule. Johnson, 55, had been scheduled to die at 6 p.m. at the Missouri state prison in Bonne Terre….read the rest of the article at the Associated Press website.

As reported by the New York Times, the future of the Death Penalty seems grim:

“If you don’t go now, there’s a real possibility you have blood on your hands,” said Robert J. Smith, a fellow at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute of Harvard Law School. His scholarship was cited in Justice Breyer’s dissent from a decision upholding the use of an execution drug that three death row inmates argued risked causing excruciating pain…

All concerned agree that much has changed since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, four years after it had effectively struck it down. Last year, only seven states carried out executions. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty entirely, seven of them in the last decade.

Governors and courts have imposed moratoriums in others, and the number of death sentences and executions continues to drop. The Supreme Court itself has barred the execution of juvenile offenders, people with intellectual disabilities and those convicted of crimes against individuals other than murder in the last decade.

The more cautious, step-by-step approach would ask the court to further narrow the availability of the death penalty by, for instance, forbidding the execution of mentally ill people and of accomplices who did not kill anyone. The more assertive one would introduce a broad case aimed at the death penalty itself.

Both sides look to history for instruction, but they draw different lessons.

Justice Breyer has told friends that his dissent was partly inspired by a similar one a half-century before. The earlier dissent, by Justice Arthur J. Goldberg, helped create the modern movement for the abolition of the death penalty and led to a four-year moratorium on executions…. read the rest of the article at the New York Times,

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