Opinion America Should Strike Down the Death Penalty

20:35  01 october  2018
20:35  01 october  2018 Source:   nationalreview.com

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Why America should abolish the death penalty . As the mills have ground on, life has ground Madison, 68, down to wreckage. After multiple serious strokes, he has vascular dementia, an irreversible and progressive degenerative disease.

Arizona's death - penalty scheme is a prime example of how capital punishment in the United States unavoidably violates the Eighth Amendment's Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote that the death penalty was "cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual."

Vernon Madison in 2016© Alabama Department of Corrections/Handout via Reuters Vernon Madison in 2016

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Without being aware of it, Vernon Madison might become a footnote in constitutional law because he is barely aware of anything. For more than 30 years, Alabama, with a tenacity that deserves a better cause, has been trying to execute him for the crime he certainly committed, the 1985 murder of a police officer. Twice the state convicted him unconstitutionally (first excluding African Americans from the jury, then insinuating inadmissible evidence into the record). In a third trial the judge, who during his time on the bench overrode more life sentences (six) than any other Alabama judge, disregarded the jury’s recommended sentence of life imprisonment and imposed the death penalty.

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Student bikes across America to support people… Strike down the death penalty . This extremely biased view towards administering punishment is reason enough to strike down the punishment, however there is even more cause to support the end of the death penalty .

A panel of judges on Thursday unanimously struck down the death penalty in Washington state, ruling that it violates the state constitution. The court ordered that the eight people currently on death row in Washington should have their sentences converted to life in prison.

The mills of justice grind especially slowly regarding capital punishment, which courts have enveloped in labyrinthine legal protocols. As the mills have ground on, life has ground Madison, 68, down to wreckage. After multiple serious strokes, he has vascular dementia, an irreversible and progressive degenerative disease. He also is legally blind, his speech is slurred, he has Type 2 diabetes and chronic hypertension, he cannot walk unassisted, he has dead brain tissue, and urinary incontinence.

And he no longer remembers the crime that put him on death row for most of his adult life. This is why on Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the constitutionality of executing him.

His counsel of record, Bryan A. Stevenson, head of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., says that it was undisputed in the penalty phase of Madison’s third trial that he already “suffered from a mental illness marked by paranoid delusions.” Stevenson says that Madison, who has been mentally ill since adolescence and who over the years had been prescribed “numerous psychotropic medications,” cannot remember “numerous events” of the past 30 years, including “events from the offense to his arrest or to his trial,” and cannot remember the name of the police officer he shot.

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court struck down an aspect of Florida’s capital punishment system on Tuesday, saying it did not give jurors a sufficient role in deciding whether defendants should be put to death . Florida has about 400 inmates on death row, the second most in the nation after California.

— The Washington Supreme Court handed down a decision today that outlaws the death penalty , making it the 20th state in the country to reject capital “Racial bias, conscious or unconscious, plays a role in the death penalty decisions across America , influencing who faces this ultimate punishment

The mere phrasing of the matter at issue — whether Madison is “competent to be executed” — induces moral vertigo. A unanimous three-judge panel of the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Madison lacks the requisite competence because he lacks understanding of the connection between his crime and his execution. The question before the Supreme Court is whether executing Madison would violate the Eighth Amendment’s proscription of “cruel and unusual punishments.”

The court has said that “we may seriously question the retributive value of executing a person who has no comprehension of why he has been singled out and stripped of his fundamental right to life.” For many people, the death penalty for especially heinous crimes satisfies a sense of moral symmetry. Retribution — society’s cathartic expression of a proportional response to attacks on its norms — is not, however, the only justification offered for capital punishment. Deterrence is another. But by now this power is vanishingly small because imposition of the death penalty is so sporadic and glacial. Because the process of getting from sentencing to execution is so protracted, currently averaging 15 years, senescent persons on the nation’s death rows are going to be problems as long as there is capital punishment.

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Capital punishment is withering away due to the expense of litigating, lack of enhancement to public safety, and the public’s healthy squeamishness.

Washington state's death penalty was unanimously struck down by its supreme court on Thursday as arbitrary and racially biased, making it the 20th state to do away with capital punishment.

Madison’s case compels us to focus on the death penalty in its granular reality: Assisting someone who is non-ambulatory and bewildered because he is (in Stevenson’s phrase) “memory-disordered,” to be strapped down so an executioner can try to find a vein — often a problem with the elderly — to receive a lethal injection. Capital punishment is withering away because the process of litigating the administration of it is so expensive, and hence disproportionate to any demonstrable enhancement of public safety, but also because of a healthy squeamishness that speaks well of us.

Sixty years ago, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that the Eighth Amendment — particularly the idea of what counts as “cruel” punishments – “must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Concerning which, two caveats are apposite: “evolving” is not a synonym for “improving,” and a society can become, as America arguably is becoming, infantilized as it “matures.” That said, it certainly is true that standards of decency do evolve and that America’s have improved astonishingly since 1958: Think about segregated lunch counters and much else.

Conservatives have their own standards, including this one: The state — government — already is altogether too full of itself, and investing it with the power to inflict death on anyone exacerbates its sense of majesty and delusions of adequacy.

© 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Washington Supreme Court tosses out state's death penalty .
The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty violates the state's Constitution. The ruling makes Washington the latest state to do away with capital punishment. The justices said the "death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially." They ordered that the people currently on death row have their sentences converted to life in prison. Gov. Jay Inslee, a one-time supporter of capital punishment, had previously said no executions will take place while he's in office.

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