Daily Archives: December 15, 2011

United States Mission in Iraq Officially Ends

iraq

Image by The U.S. Army via Flickr

The United States officially ended its mission in Iraq today, nearly nine years after it led an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Baghdad for the ceremony to personally thank the U.S. troops who have served there, as well as Iraqi security forces.

All U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by the end of the month after Washington and Baghdad failed to agree on terms under which they could stay.

There were about 5,500 American troops in Iraq as of Tuesday, the most recent day American officials in Iraq gave CNN figures.

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Ohio Justice Who Helped Write Capital Punishment Law Calls for Its Repeal

Death penalty statutes in the united states

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An Ohio Supreme Court justice who helped write the state’s death penalty law urged lawmakers Wednesday to repeal it.

“This is where the decision is made as to what should be the ultimate penalty,” Justice Paul Pfeifer, a Republican, said at an Ohio House of Representatives committee hearing. “I have concluded that the death sentence makes no sense to me at this point when you can have life without possibility of parole. I don’t see what society gains from that.”

Justice Pfeifer called on Republican Governor John Kasich in January to end capital punishment. A spokesman for the governor immediately shot down Pfeifer’s suggestion.

Wednesday marked the first time he testified before lawmakers that the death penalty should be repealed.

In 2003, Justice Pfeifer raised concerns about whether the death penalty was applied evenly based on race and geography during testimony before a House committee.

After his testimony, Justice Pfeifer said he doesn’t expect much support for his position in the GOP-controlled legislature either. Nevertheless, he laid out his case against the punishment, which he referred to as a “death lottery.”

Justice Pfeifer was testifying in support of House Bill 160, which would abolish the death penalty and resentence death row inmates to life in prison without parole.

Justice Pfeifer was chairman of the Ohio Senate’s Judiciary Committee in 1981 when the death penalty statute became law. Executions resumed in Ohio until 1999. Since then, the state has executed forty-six inmates. Twelve more are scheduled by September 2013.

Pfeifer said the punishment was meant for the “worst of the worst” — but that is not always the case today. He also said the punishment is not an effective deterrent.

Via Cleveland.com.

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Number of Executions, Like Support for Capital Punishment, Dropped Dramatically in 2011

Map of death penalty

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The number of executions and death sentences nationwide continues a steady decline, matching dwindling public support for capital punishment in general, according to the Death Penalty Information Center’s annual report.

Only seventy-eight people were sentenced to death this year, the first time that number dropped below 100 since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Death sentences last year were at 112, and have declined by nearly 75% from fifteen years ago, when more than 300 people were condemned.

A report showed forty-three people were executed in 2011, down three from last year and a 56% decline from twelve years ago.

A CNN/Opinion Research Poll in October found more Americans for the first time favor a sentence of life in prison over the death penalty for murderers, 50% to 48%. CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said his analysis shows a difference between thinking the government should have the death penalty as an option and actually wanting to see it applied.

The decline in the number who prefer the death penalty as the punishment for murder may be related to the growing number who believe that at least one person in the past five years has been executed for a crime that he or she did not commit. In 2005, when a solid majority preferred the death penalty, 59% believed that an innocent person had been executed within the previous five years. Now that figure has risen to 72%.

The year’s highest profile execution dealt with questions of innocence. Troy Davis was given a lethal injection in September, ending a battle for the man convicted of killing a Georgia officer. He drew widespread support for his claims an innocent man was being put to death, after federal and state courts had rejected his calls for a new trial. Since Davis’ conviction in 1991, seven of the nine witnesses against him had recanted their testimony, and no physical evidence was presented linking Davis to the killing of the officer.

A Texas execution also attracted international attention. Mexican national Humberto Leal Garcia was convicted of killing a sixteen-year-old girl. A world court found Texas violated his rights by not giving Mr. Leal access to Mexico’s consulate upon his arrest, as required by an intentional treaty. U.S. and Mexican officials, along with a variety of human rights groups, urged Texas to delay the execution, but to no avail.

Texas continues to lead the nation as the busiest death penalty state, with thirteen executions this year. Alabama was next with six, and Ohio with five.

Thirty-four states have capital laws; thirteen states carried out the punishment in 2011. Several states with capital punishment laws failed to sentence anyone to death in 2011.

Illinois this year became the fourth state in four years to get rid of the death penalty, while Oregon’s Democratic governor said no executions would occur while he is in office.

California voters could decide next year whether to abandon the practice. That state has the highest death row population, but no one has been executed there since 2006.

Connecticut and New Hampshire are the only New England states with the death penalty, but only one person has been executed in the region since 1960.

Via CNN.

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