NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

VICTORY! Delaware Supreme Court declares state’s death penalty law unconstitutional

A sig­nif­i­cant vic­to­ry for human rights has been won today:

The Delaware Supreme Court has ruled the state’s death penal­ty law is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al – and the only chance at fix­ing it is to punt the issue to the already-divid­ed Gen­er­al Assem­bly.

The top court released its rul­ing Tues­day that said Delaware’s cur­rent cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment statute vio­lates the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion by giv­ing judges, and not juries, the final say to impose a death sen­tence.

The opin­ion is avail­able online here (PDF).

The Court’s rul­ing will have the effect of pre­vent­ing any more peo­ple from being sen­tenced to death in Delaware, the nation’s first state.

The right wing will undoubt­ed­ly try to get this rul­ing over­turned, but that will be dif­fi­cult for them, because a major­i­ty in Delaware’s state Sen­ate sup­port abo­li­tion — as does Gov­er­nor Jack Markell, who had praise for today’s deci­sion.

“I applaud the Supreme Court’s find­ing that the state’s death penal­ty law is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al,” Markell said in a state­ment.

“As I have come to see after care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion, the use of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment is an instru­ment of imper­fect jus­tice that doesn’t make us any safer.”

“We have been watch­ing legal devel­op­ments and sup­port­ing orga­niz­ing efforts in Delaware and are so pleased to add anoth­er state to the death-penal­ty-free col­umn,” said Zach Ever­son in a state­ment to sup­port­ers of the Nation­al Coali­tion to Abol­ish the Death Penal­ty (NCADP).

“Momen­tum con­tin­ues to build against the death penal­ty, and Delaware today has joined a grow­ing major­i­ty on the right side of his­to­ry,” said James Clark, senior death penal­ty cam­paign­er at Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al USA.

“Today more than half of U.S. states do not car­ry out exe­cu­tions. Those few that con­tin­ue must end this failed sys­tem and abol­ish this cru­el, inhu­man and degrad­ing pun­ish­ment once and for all.”

We com­mend Delaware’s Supreme Court for its deci­sion today.

Every time a state does away with the bar­bar­ic prac­tice of exe­cu­tions, our coun­try stands taller. We can­not be a human rights cham­pi­on around the world when we are putting peo­ple to death here at home. Regret­tably, the laws of the Pacif­ic North­west still allow peo­ple to be put to death. In Wash­ing­ton, in Ore­gon, in Ida­ho, we need to change our laws so that abo­li­tion becomes a real­i­ty. If Nebras­ka can do it, if New Mex­i­co can do it, if Delaware can do it, then we can do it, too.

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