While we’re on the subject . . .


In “The Trump Executions,” in a University of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper, Lee Kovarsky analyzes the Trump Administration’s killing spree from July 2020 to January during which 13 federal prisoners were executed by the government. In three parts, Kovarsky puts the executions in historical context, looks at the legal disputes surrounding the government’s actions, and considers the implications of the executions that “smashed into the legal landscape like 13 hurricanes.”

Death penalty lawyer Ronald J. Tabak takes an in-depth look at significant death penalty developments in a chapter of the American Bar Association’s annual The State of Criminal Justice publication. Tabak analyzes the “dramatic developments that could lead to a fundamental change in the death penalty’s future in the U.S,” including the “national revulsion” at the Trump administration’s killing spree last year when it executed 13 federal prisoners, and the surprising vote by Virginia’s legislators to abolish their death penalty.

In their University of Richmond Law Review article, “Disrupting Death: How Dedicated Capital Defenders Broke Virginia’s Machinery of Death,” Corinna Lain and Doug Ramseur maintain that Virginia’s repeal of capital punishment in March was “arguably the most momentous abolitionist event since 1972,” when the US Supreme Court found in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was unconstitutional. “A critical piece of the puzzle” of why Virginia went from having the “broadest death penalty statute in the country, coupled with a post-conviction review process that was lightning fast and turned death sentences into executions at a rate five times the national average,” to abolition was that the death penalty there “was dying on the vine.”

The Catholic television ministry, Wordnet, in its Mission Minute News webcast aired earlier this month, referred to DPF President Mike Farrell’s editorial in last month’s Focus challenging US Bishops to be as concerned about the death penalty as they are about abortion. Sister Jeanne Harris noted (at the 20th minute) that as Farrell wrote, Catholicism teaches that all life is sacred, “a consistent life ethic [that] urges the abolition of not only abortion but also the death penalty.”

The Equal Justice Initiative looks at “Race and the Jury” in a follow-up to its 2010 report, “Illegal Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection/A Continuing Legacy,” and finds that “throughout our country’s history, perpetrators of racial violence, terrorism, and exploitation of disfavored groups have escaped accountability because their criminal behavior has been ignored by all-white juries,” and that this “longstanding problem of racial bias imperils the legitimacy of the US legal system.”

The 48 Hours podcast looks at “The Troubling Case Against Kevin Cooper.” Cooper was convicted of a 1983 quadruple murder in San Bernardino County and sentenced to death in 1985. For 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There are so many questions, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an innocence investigation into Cooper’s case earlier this year.

Famed civil rights attorney Anthony G. Amsterdam, who is credited with arguing many landmark death penalty cases, including Furman v. Georgia and Lockett v. Ohio, is also an accomplished poet, as evidenced by his new book, Crass Casualties. Vermont Law School Professor Philip N. Meyer says, “These narrative poems are fearlessly truthful and ferociously intelligent, sometimes tragic yet always exquisite …”

New Hampshire Rep. Renny Cushing, who led the effort to abolish New Hampshire’s death penalty for years, finally succeeding in 2019, was recognized late last month in the Congressional Record by US Rep. Jamie Raskin, who declared that Cushing, now the Democratic leader of the state House, “has devoted his life to the betterment of our nation and our communities and the uplifting of all our people. His unwavering commitment and tenacious attitude even in the toughest of times exemplify what it means to be a patriotic American.”

Inquest inquest.org is a new online forum offering “original, insightful work by thinkers and doers across a broad range of experience and expertise, united in the belief that mass incarceration is an epic injustice that can and must urgently end.” Although published by the Institute to End Mass Incarceration, the site emphasizes it is not the voice of IEMI, but a medium where “a diverse set of thinkers and doers can come together to engage in thoughtful, constructive dialogue about the many ideas it will take to end mass incarceration.”

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