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Wed Jan 21 01:48:33 EST 2004


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A federal judge in Boston declared, in a death penalty case, "that there was
mounting evidence innocent people were being executed." In his decision, he
noted that there were "exonerations of over 100 people on death row based on
DNA and other evidence."  But he refused to declare the death penalty
unconstitutional. 

Nevertheless, the Massachusetts governor, a conservative politician, is
considering suspending executions and urging the legislature to rewrite
capital criminal law to avoid, insofar as possible, mistaken convictions and
executions.

The previous Illinois governor commuted many death penalty convicts to life
imprisonment without parole just before his term ended. He cited the much
exoneration of capital crime convicts as reason for the commutations.

Project Innocence, based at Cardozo Law School in New York has won the
exoneration of many persons convicted of capital murder and sentenced to
death. Their use of DNA evidence was groundbreaking.

On the other hand, the Attorney General of the United States, John Ashcroft,
has directed his regional federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty in
many more murder cases. Mr. Ashcroft has argued that capital punishment is
justified in numerous egregious murder cases. However, in the last 20
federal capital cases, federal juries rendered acquittals or life
imprisonments in 19 cases. 

A federal jury recently refused to mete out the death penalty to one of the
Washington area snipers and elected to send him to prison for life without
parole instead. Since juries are increasingly rejecting the capital
punishment in the penalty phase of trials, the Justice Department "may
actually be engaging in a counterproductive exercise."

The Supreme Court of the United States "has held that courts may take into
account evolving standards of decency in deciding whether punishments
violate the 8th Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment."

And now, comes the question of the death penalty for Saddam Hussein and his
cohorts. 

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