States cp — vs Death Penalty —

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States CP
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States CP

— vs Death Penalty —

1NC—States CP v Death Penalty

The fifty states and relevant territories in the United States should abolish the death penalty

Leadership on the state-level spills up – momentum against the death penalty forces the Supreme Court to model

Stahl, Slate senior editor, and Stubbs, director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, 2019
[Jeremy Stahl, interviewing Cassy Stubbs, 3/28/19, “Is the Tide Finally Turning on the Death Penalty?,” Slate Magazine,, accessed 5-25-2020, MAM]
What are some of the states where you see potential for the next big moves on this issue?

Ohio is another example where there has been this legal injection litigation for some time that has been really bogged down in questions of whether or not the defendant has shown and proposed a better way—a less painful way—of killing himself. A lot of the lethal injection litigation has lost sight of the fact that there’s this enormous compelling record that we are carrying out executions with a drug, midazolam, that is in fact leading to torture of prisoners in a number of states. We just saw the [Republican] governor of Ohio [Mike DeWine] say, we’re not going to do this.

We have this huge [death] row in California, a row that I think is so much bigger than any other row in the country. So [Newsom’s] announcement all alone would be a major development in the history of the death penalty in America. But the fact is that it’s happening at the same time you have a state like Ohio moving forward with a moratorium, and you have a state like Pennsylvania that’s got a large [death] row [moving ahead] with a moratorium.

You’re talking a lot about state-level action. Is that because action at the federal level is such a heavy lift? For advocates of abolition, it seems to me that recent decisions from the Supreme Court may not have been so inspiring. I’m talking about that recent case before the Supreme Court, where the court let Domineque Ray be executed in Alabama despite being denied access to his imam, and the court deciding not to rule on the religious discrimination question there.

There is a lot of movement in states and by state executives and state courts, and I think that’s in part because we haven’t seen enough movement from the U.S. Supreme Court yet. But that does not mean that I am in any way giving up on federal courts, or giving up on the U.S. Supreme Court abolishing the death penalty. I do think that is coming.

The Jones case was this case out of California where the federal district court found the death penalty in California unconstitutional because of the incredibly broken nature of California’s death penalty and the delays there—it’s just absolutely arbitrary who might get executed in California. At the same time, there was a federal court in New Hampshire that ruled the death penalty unconstitutional a number of years ago. Those cases ultimately did not stand, but the merits of those cases did not actually reach the Supreme Court.

I think that when you look at the benchmarks that the Supreme Court has set forward for whether or not the death penalty today is constitutional under the Eighth Amendment, the evolving standard of decency says let’s look at what’s happening in the states. Let’s look at the number of executions, let’s look at the trends, let’s look at the new death sentences. All of those are moving in the same direction. It is just an incredible downward-sloping number.

We certainly would not have predicted where we are today in terms of the low number of new death sentences, the low number of executions each year. There is an incredible showing, I think, under the Eighth Amendment, and it is just a matter of time before the Supreme Court is going to take one of these cases.

I think if you look at the Supreme Court’s record, it has issued a number of opinions where we’ve seen that it is concerned about some of these same things that Newsom was talking about, some of these same things that the Washington state Supreme Court was talking about.
Now, we were very dismayed, and I would not ever defend the Supreme Court’s allowing Ray’s execution to go forward. I think that that was a coming together of some of the worst ways in which the death penalty plays out, including the fact that, because of the way that Supreme Court rules work under [deadline] of an execution, it’s very difficult to get a claim heard that you would otherwise normally get heard. So they had enough votes to hear the briefing and make a reasoned decision on the merits of the religious discrimination that was going on in that case, but they didn’t have enough votes to stop the execution because of the way the state rule works. Time and time again, super important legal issues don’t get a real hearing because the push for finality and moving to execution just ends up outweighing decency and justice. So that was really a setback, and discouraging, but I think that we’ve seen from this court over the years—even though they rule against a claim that is brought on the eve of execution, that doesn’t tell you how they would rule on the merits of the claim.

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