Posted by Engadgets on August 14, 2018 10:31:10The death penalty for certain crimes, which are defined as murder and other violent crimes, has been on the books for decades.
But it’s been a relatively low-profile topic.
That changed this year when California Gov.
Jerry Brown announced his administration was ending capital punishment.
The move, which came as part of a larger effort to end California’s death penalty, sparked widespread protests and criticism from many of the state’s elected officials, and a nationwide debate about capital punishment in America.
“There are still a lot of issues with our justice system,” Brown said at the time.
“But I’m very confident that California will be the last state in America to carry out capital punishment.”
But while the public discussion of the death sentence has been muted, the debate is being rekindled.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both parties are introducing a bill to end the death penalties, including the death sentences for drug crimes, sexual assault, rape, burglary, robbery and child abuse.
California’s bill would also allow for sentencing enhancements, including a new class of life-without-parole sentences for some violent crimes.
“The death row should be the most extreme of the extreme,” said Rep. Dan Lungren (D-Calif.), a member of the bipartisan Congressional Death Penalty Caucus.
The bipartisan proposal, which would require state parole boards to conduct “pre-sentencing reviews” to determine whether there is a reasonable chance that a defendant will receive a life sentence, has attracted a broad bipartisan support, including from Democrats and Republicans.
In the first six months of 2018, a bipartisan group including Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman of California, Rep. Kevin Yoder of Texas, Rep.-elect Mike Coffman of Colorado, and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island co-sponsored a bipartisan bill in the House that would make California’s new law a national law, while at the same time giving states the option to opt out of capital punishment altogether.
But the bipartisan effort, introduced in the wake of Brown’s announcement, has yet to gain enough support for the full House, and the Senate to approve the legislation.
The group also has received pushback from some Democrats, who say it does not go far enough to address the issue of wrongful convictions and that the proposed legislation would not provide adequate protections for victims of capital crimes.
The California proposal has received support from several organizations, including Families Against Capital Punishment, which supports the death-penalty-for-violent-crime legislation and has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state law.
“It’s not enough for the death row to be a state prison,” Families Against, which has filed more than 100 wrongful conviction cases, told Engadges.
“We have a death row and we need to get it fixed.
We don’t want it to be just a federal prison.
We want to make it a state-run prison.”
A group of law professors from Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, the Harvard Law School, and Columbia University wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that “the death penalty remains the most egregious and cruel sanction in the nation, and should be repealed and replaced with a more humane sentencing scheme.”
The groups are also pushing for a “preemptive” change to the state death penalty law, a proposal that would extend the moratorium on executions to the 2020 elections, and for the states to be allowed to carry death sentences when they are convicted of capital murder or murder for hire.
The proposal, introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D–Ill.), is one of several in the Senate that would prohibit states from executing convicts in certain circumstances.
“If a state wants to keep capital punishment, it should be allowed,” said Durbins spokesperson Alia Brown.
“There is no other sanction that can be used to ensure that the punishment is the death of the defendant, the maximum punishment, and it should not be used for the punishment of other crimes.”
Durbins office did not respond to a request for comment.