While we’re on the subject…

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In its analysis of the President Biden-appointed US Supreme Court Reform Commission’s draft recommendations, Balls and Strikes says the “commission gave the death penalty a pass.” Lisa Needham writes that “The notion that the Court might be the final link in a chain of decisions that results in an innocent person’s death does not seem to cause much consternation for the commission.” She argues that “a series of both-sides takes on how the Court is handling the death penalty” is comparable to “Biden’s often-contradictory stance on capital punishment.”

In his Missouri Law Review Note, “Deadlocked: Evaluating Judge-Imposed Death Sentences Under Missouri’s Death Penalty Statute,” Michael J. Essma looks at Missouri’s death penalty scheme, which allows a judge to determine whether a defendant should be sentenced to death in cases where the jury has deadlocked on a death sentence. Missouri is one of only two states — Indiana is the other — which allows judge-imposed death sentences, a system Essma concludes should be abolished. “Given what is at stake in death penalty cases, it is imperative that there be no doubt all constitutional protections are met. An easy way to assure this is to require a jury to sentence a defendant to death and leave open no avenue for a judge to impose a death sentence on his or her own,” he writes.

In her article, “When a Witness Recants,” in the New Yorker, Jennifer Gonnerman writes about a 1983 murder case in West Baltimore when 14-year-old DeWitt Duckett was shot as he walked with his friend down their junior high school hallway. His friend, Ron Bishop, who was also 14 at the time, was one of four witnesses coerced by detectives into identifying the wrong perpetrators, three boys their age, who were then charged as adults and sentenced to life in prison. They served 36 years before being released on evidence of innocence. Referring to the prosecutorial misconduct that caused such horrific damage to so many lives — the wrongfully convicted, the witnesses forced to lie, the families of all the students — a prosecutor who helped free the men said, “This is absolutely the worst that I have seen.”

In her op-ed, “Pope Francis has shown the U.S. a new path for ending the death penalty—for good,” in America magazine, Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy points to the Trump administration’s execution spree last year that killed 13 federal death row prisoners and maintains that “There was nothing to necessitate [it] outside of its own thirst for vengeance.” She contrasts that act with Pope Francis’s release during the same period of “Fratelli Tutti,” an encyclical on the issues facing society and the church. He writes with “unflinching certitude,” the church’s opposition to capital punishment. She calls on the church in the U.S. to rally to Francis’s call and to work for the abolition of the death penalty and “to advance in practical ways Pope Francis’ vision for a justice that upholds human dignity, hope, and healing.” 

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