In their paper, “ ‘A World of Steel-Eyed Death’: An Empirical Evaluation of the Failure of the Strickland Standard to Ensure Adequate Counsel to Defendants with Mental Disabilities Facing the Death Penalty,” law professor Michael L. Perlin, criminology professor Talia Roitberg Harmon, and doctoral student Sarah Chatt analyze how inadequacy of counsel claims, established by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Strickland v. Washington (1984), were decided in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals from 1984 to 2017. The 198 state cases the authors examine prove “Strickland is indeed a pallid standard, fostering ‘tolerance of abysmal lawyering,’ and is one that makes a mockery of the most vital of constitutional law protections: the right to adequate counsel.”

An editorial in the Toledo Blade proclaims that, “The state should not be in the business of violating the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment because it is in too much of a hurry to find an appropriate drug cocktail to legally execute condemned prisoners.” The editorial praises Gov. Mike DeWine for his decision in January to postpone the pending execution of Warren Keith Henness, and ordered the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction to “assess Ohio’s current options for execution drugs and examine possible alternative drugs,” after a federal judge issued an opinion that the state’s current lethal injection protocol constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

“If someone can express excitement over the killing of another human being, that says everything about them. It says that, within that person, where humanity and empathy and respect for life should reside, there is just empty space,” writes Patti Davis in the Washington Post. Davis, the daughter of former President Ronald Reagan writes of her father’s anguish in allowing the execution of Aaron Mitchell to proceed in 1967, when Reagan was California’s governor. Davis’ op-ed is directed at Donald Trump, whose enthusiasm for the death penalty, and tyrants around the world who execute their citizens, is well-known.

“A surprising factor is quietly contributing to the death penalty’s decline in Pennsylvania: Prosecutors are increasingly reluctant to pursue capital murder charges,” reporter Riley Yates explains in the Morning Call. He says this reluctance is because of the high cost and long delays endemic to death penalty cases, as well as “the improbability the sentences will ultimately be carried out.” The result, he reports, is that in 2004, 40 percent of murder convictions in the state started as death penalty cases and that by 2017, that number had dropped to 12 percent. He predicts those numbers will decrease even more under Larry Krasner, a death penalty opponent, who became district attorney in Philadelphia in 2018.

In his book, The Deprived: Innocent on Death Row, Danish writer Steffen Hou interviews several exonerated death row prisoners, their family members, and victims’ family members about the staggering physical, psychological, and emotional toll the death penalty exacts on everyone involved in a capital case.

It's time to end this costly, failed system.

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