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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