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Home https://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/ World https://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/ Finally, we can be ready to abolish the death penalty.

Finally, we can be ready to abolish the death penalty.



  California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference at the California State Capitol on March 13.

Recently three years ago, California voters rejected a vote to end the death penalty, but earlier this month, California's government, Gavin Newsom, announced that he had ordered a moratorium on executions in the largest state in the country. * Newsom's order would offer an exposure to the state's 737 death prisoners, making it a milestone in the history of the death penalty abolition in that country.

This is just an event in the quiet revolution against the death penalty happening across the country, says Cassy Stubbs, director of the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project. The governor of Colorado, who already has an effective moratorium in place, has pushed lawmakers to make a permanent decision on the state's death penalty by 2021. In New Hampshire, the state must vote for a measure abolishing the death penalty that has already passed in Parliament with a veto-proof majority. In Ohio, Republican Governor Mike DeWine put an effective end to the state's death sentence earlier this year. It is part of a nationwide trend that Stubbs sees as changing the death penalty landscape in this country in a way that has not happened for decades. I talked to Stubbs last week about these events and how the abolition case goes into court and state houses across the US. The conversation has been condensed for length and clarity.

Jeremy Stahl: What background do you think is important for people to understand about Newsom's message and the broader image of the death penalty in the United States?

Cassy Stubbs: This year it feels like a turning point for the death penalty. Last year, Washington abolished the death penalty. It was a great victory. But I think what is a bit unique right now is that we see a lot of different camps moving in the same direction at the same time. For example, the Pope comes with the strongest statement in the story of the death penalty and the church's view on the death penalty. We see that there are conservative groups that are really worried about the death penalty from a religious and moral perspective – and also from the cost, while the Democratic Party has announced part of their platform.

Kamala Harris spoke just about how the death penalty is never appropriate in her opinion. Newsom has just issued the strong defense of why we can no longer stand behind the death penalty, and it is moral for us to break away from this when it has proved to be so racist biased and inherently discriminatory and unfairly used. This kind of full-spectrum attack on the death penalty is about to reach a noise level that at least feels very different to me than I have seen for over a decade for a critical voice mass.

There was [also] a kind of pathway [where]. We saw that a number of governors did things that were good at the death penalty, such as problematic stays or moratoriums or commissions, and then surviving political attacks. We saw that voters no longer voted for the death penalty. There wasn't that kind of setback against people coming out and saying "we need death penalty reform" that we had seen in the 1980s. It was the first phase. Now we are really in this new phase where we see people from right and left aggressively promoting the death penalty lifting.

Who are you thinking of talking about recent politicians who do not necessarily face a setback?

We saw the governor of Colorado [John Hickenlooper] directed at the death penalty and was re-elected [in 2014] despite his issuing of reprisals on the death penalty and despite the moratorium on the death penalty in Colorado. We saw in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown was re-elected [last year] with a moratorium on the death penalty. We saw in Kansas, the Kansas State judges had been very robust in their review and had appropriately violated death plans that [we believe] violated the US Constitution on a fairly regular basis and they were attacked for it and they survived these challenges. We saw it in the Washington State Supreme Court, which [last year] wrote this really sweeping statement to find racist bias in the use of the death penalty in the Washington Constitution. They issued this opinion just before the elections to the judiciary, as in the case of litigator strategy, you would never expect a state court to issue a big decision just before election elections. There are no setbacks.

What are some of the states where you see potential for the next major feature of this issue?

Ohio is another example where there has been a legal injection at a time that has been really weakened in whether or not the defendant has shown and suggested a better way – a less painful way – to kill himself. A lot of the deadly injection disputes have lost the fact that there is this hugely convincing record that we are performing executions with a drug, midazolam, which actually leads to torture of prisoners in a number of states. We just watched the governor of Ohio [Mike DeWine] say we will not do this.

We have this great range in California, a series that I think is so much larger than any other row in the country. So message alone would be a major evolution in the history of the death penalty in America. But the fact is that it does happen while you have a state like Ohio, moving forward with a moratorium, and you have a state like Pennsylvania that has a large [moving ahead] series with a moratorium.

You talk a lot about state action. Is it because action at federal level is so heavy lifting? For advocates of abolition, it seems to me that the recent decisions of the Supreme Court have not been so inspiring. I am talking about the recent case before the Supreme Court, where the court allowed Domineque Ray to be executed in Alabama even though he was denied access to his imam, and the court decided not to consider the issue of religious discrimination there.

There is much movement in states and state leaders and state courts, and I think that is partly because we have not yet seen enough movement from the US Supreme Court. But that does not mean that I in any way give up on federal courts or abandon the US Supreme Court's abolition of the death penalty. I think it's coming.

"We certainly had not predicted where we are today regarding the low number of new deaths sentences."

Jones the case was this case out of California where the federal district court found the death penalty in California unconstitutional because of the incredibly corrupted nature of California's death penalty and delays there – it's just absolutely arbitrary that might be executed in California. At the same time, there was a federal court in New Hampshire who ran the death penalty constitutional some years ago. These cases were ultimately not present, but the facts of the cases did not actually reach the Supreme Court.

I think that when looking at the benchmarks the Supreme Court has stated about the death penalty today being constitutional during the eighth amendment, say the evolving standard of decency, let's look at what's happening in the states. Let's look at the number of executions, let's look at the trend, let's look at the new words of death. All of these move in the same direction. It's just an incredible downhill slope.

We would certainly not have predicted where we are today regarding the low number of new death sentences, the low number of executions each year. There is an incredible view, I believe, during the eighth amendment, and it's just a matter of time before the Supreme Court will take one of these cases.

I think if you look at the Supreme Court's record, it has issued a number of statements where we have seen that it is concerned about some of the same things that Newsom was talking about, some of the same things as Washington State Supreme Court talked about.

Now we were very horrified, and I would never defend the Supreme Court's permission for Ray's execution to proceed. I think it was a confusion of some of the worst ways in which the death penalty unfolds, including the fact that, because of the way in which the Supreme Court ruled in the work of [deadline] an execution, there is much difficult to get a claim heard that otherwise you would normally be heard. So they had enough voices to hear the briefing and make a reasoned decision about the benefits of the religious discrimination that was in that case, but they did not have enough votes to stop the execution because of the way the state's rule works. Essentially important legal issues do not always get a real hearing, because pushed to finality and moving to execution just ends up predominantly decency and justice. So it was really a setback and deterrent, but I think we have seen from this court over the years – even if they oppose a claim brought in the evening for execution, it doesn't tell you how they would the rule on the benefits of the claim.

Correction, March 28, 2019: An earlier version of this article failed to timely Newsom's message. It was earlier this month, not two weeks ago.


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