Murder, crime and punishment are all popular topics in the media and may even leave you feeling as though you are reading the latest crime novel. You could literally turn on any T.V in the country or pick up any newspaper, and watch or read a story that was related to capital punishment within the United States this past year. The eighth Amendment reads in short, excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. Over the course of the history of our nation, the question has consistently been raised; “What constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and how is this punishment defined?”
Death Row Executions in 2015
The death penalty is legal in 31 states and illegal in 19 states along with the District of Columbia. With a total of 28 executions in six states in 2015, research suggests that this is the lowest number of executions since 1991. During the course of 2015, Texas completed 13 executions, Oklahoma 1, Virginia 1, Florida 2, Missouri 6 and Georgia 5. But the controversy continues and supporters and their opponents continued to line up for a head to head battle over the death penalty debate in 2015.
Dyer & Libby Attorneys at Law has prepared some of the most controversial death penalty issues of 2015
Lethal Injection: Death row inmate Richard Glossip’s legal team challenged the use of midazolam a drug used for lethal injection. The use of the drug and the source were spotlighted in the media and although the court denied Glossip’s request to stay his execution, the case again caught the attention of the media and the public in September. In the final hours preceding Glossip’s scheduled execution, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin stayed the execution once it was revealed that the wrong drug was received. The media also highlighted the fact that the 31 states that still use lethal injection by way of execution face challenges in securing the drugs. The European Union banned the sale of lethal injection drugs to the United States in 2011. Undisclosed sources indicate that Texas, Arizona, and Nebraska purchased and made the attempt to illegally import lethal injection drugs from India in 2015.
Conservatives in Nebraska Push to Re-Instate the Death Penalty: In May, both democratic and republican legislators met to vote against Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of a bill that would outlaw capital punishment. Nebraska is the first Republican controlled state to abolish the death penalty since 1973. Advocates fighting for the death penalty launched a campaign to reinstate the death penalty and effectively collected 143,000 signatures to essentially force a referendum and effectively put the law on temporary hold. Voters are set to examine the issue once again in 2016 which leaves those currently on death row in Nebraska in a legal stalemate.
The Supreme Courts Call for a Full Review: The majority of cases surrounding the death penalty in 2015 centered on which drugs can be used for execution and the jury selection process. One of the most controversial however was when two Justices; Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned the death penalty and its constitutionality. They made note of the fact that many places within the United States have abandoned the use of capital punishment which added to their belief that the death penalty could be considered cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and called for a full review of capital punishment in the United States.
Jury Selection Regarding Race: In November, 2015 lawyers representing an African American man named Timothy Foster argued before the high court that racial discrimination during the jury selection had a direct bearing on the outcome of Foster’s chance of receiving a fair trial. Timothy Foster was on death row after being convicted of killing a white woman in 1987. Both prosecutors and criminal defendants are legally allowed to remove a number of potential jurors from a trial with no explanation. Advocates claim that this process is unfair as it allows prosecutors to remove black jurors at an extremely high rate, which in their opinion makes it more likely that black defendants will receive a guilty verdict. In April, 2015, Andre Cole was executed in Missouri even though his lawyers presented sworn affidavits from a former Prosecutor who admitted that his office had methodically removed black jurors from death penalty cases.
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