Sunday, June 10, 2007

Go tell it on the mountain

On Friday the Rwandan lower house of Parliament adopted a bill abolishing the death penalty for all crimes, including genocide. The Senate should confirm this vote and the new law become effective late July. All death sentences will be commuted to life. Abolition is a condition set by the ICTR to enable that tribunal to transfer suspects in the 1994 Rwandan genocide back to that country for trial. (See further below.)

Meanwhile, a report just released by the Death Penalty Information Center indicates that while 62% of Americans still support the death penalty in cases of murder, 87% are now convinced, due to DNA testing, that innocent people have been killed. 58% therefore are now in favor of a moratorium and 39% believe their moral objection to the death penalty would exclude them from a jury. This may explain why, over the last 6 years, there has been a 60% drop in use of the death penalty. These are the kind of figures the Supreme Court relied on to declare the death penalty unconstitutional for the mentally retarded (Atkins v. Virginia, 2002) and minors (Roper v. Simmons, 2005). Go tell it, that they may hear.

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