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CAPITAL PUNISHMENT -- THE DEATH PENALTY:

Developments: Year 2005

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2005 developments:

bullet 2005-MAR-01: USA: US Supreme Court bans execution of child murderers: By the usual 5 to 4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute a juvenile killer -- i.e. a person convicted of murder who was under 18 years of age at the time of the offense. This makes unconstitutional laws in 19 states. The death sentences of 72 convicted murderers have been cancelled. The court also bars states from sentencing minors for future crimes.

They ruled that the executions violate the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment which bans cru el and unusual punishment. Many Western democracies had severely criticized the U.S. for this practice in the past. More info.

The Family Research Council reacted negatively to the decision. They cite "grave concerns such as states rights' and judges being moral arbitrators. One disturbing part of the majority opinion is that once again foreign courts and sentiment are cited to justify their decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, states, 'It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty...The opinion of the world community, while not controlling our outcome, does provide respected and significant confirmation for our own conclusions."
bullet 2005-APR-12: NY: New York state Assembly votes to not reinstate the death penalty: Equal Justice, USA reported that: "The New York State Assembly Codes Committee today defeated a bill to reinstate New York’s death penalty. The vote comes after five full days of public testimony that the death penalty is riddled with flaws and wastes millions of dollars. The Assembly’s report of the hearing was released last week, adding to a growing wave of voices questioning the death penalty across the country."

In mid-2004, the state's Court of Appeals declared that the state's death penalty statute was unconstitutional. The state has been free of executions since that decision.
bullet 2005-APR: USA: Current status of the death penalty in the U.S.:
bullet The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently repeated their opposition to the death penalty.
bullet Recent statistics show that most Catholics do not support the capital punishment.
bullet New Jersey remains under a court-ordered moratorium.
bullet Legislation to abolish executions the practice passed the New Mexico House of Representatives in 2005-FEB.
bullet A bill to abolish executions obtained 60 votes in the Connecticut legislature in 2005-MAR.
bullet The U.S. Supreme Court also barred the execution of juveniles earlier this year.
bullet Nearly 4,000 groups, churches, business, and professional associations have called for a moratorium on executions, including 142 city, town, and county councils.
bullet 2005-NOV-07: USA: Catholic bishops heavily promoting end to death penalty:  According to ReligionLink: "U.S. Catholic bishops say they want to 'seize a new moment and new momentum' in their 25-year campaign against capital punishment. They're set to approve a new statement urging an end to the death penalty at their Nov. 14-17 meeting at a time when advocates on both sides of the issue say that opinions are more in flux than they have been in years." 3
bullet 2005-NOV-08: VA: Gubernatorial election in Virginia: Virginia Governor Mark Warner (D) was barred by law from seeking a second term. The election was a three way race between Jerry Kilgore (R),  Lt. Governor Timothy Kaine (D) and Potts (I). Potts has a single digit rating in the polls, and so the race is effectively between Democrat and Republican candidates Sen. George Allen, (R-VA) a former governor, said: "In the end, each campaign becomes a choice between two candidates, with two different philosophies.... But everything has an impact on voters' minds." Kilgore's attack ads during the week before the election emphasized Kaine's opposition to the death penalty. One said that Kaine would have refused to execute Adolf Hitler. They were withdrawn after severe criticism by editors of a number of Virginia newspapers. 4

Lt. Governor Kaine won the contest by beating Kilgore by more than 5%. Warner said: "Tonight, Virginians from one end of our commonwealth to the other said no to negative campaigning.'' 5

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References:

  1. "U.S. bans executions of minors," Associated Press, 2005-MAR-01. Published in the Toronto Star, 2005-MAR-02, Page A13.
  2. "New York State legislative committee defeats death penalty," Equal Justice USA, 2005-APR-12, at: http://www.quixote.org/
  3. "DEATH PENALTY: Catholic bishops leading new push for change," ReligionLink, 2005-NOV-07, at: http://www.religionlink.org/
  4. Robert Barnes, "On Va.'s Gubernatorial Stage, National Politics Gains a Role. In a Toss-Up Election, Declining Popularity of Bush and GOP Struggles Could Have Small but Significant Impact," Washington Post, 2005-OCT-19, Page B06.
  5. "Democrats Win Elections in NJ, Va., Calif.," Netscape News, 2005-NOV-09, at: http://channels.netscape.com/

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated 2005-NOV-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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