Supreme Court to take up controversial death penalty cases

The U.S. Supreme Court, no stranger to death penalty cases, is looking very narrowly at two aspects of capital punishment this term: if an inmate with dementia should be executed if he has no memory of the crime he committed three decades ago and if a death-row prisoner with a specific health problem can be executed by a less painful manner because of his condition.

These two cases “put the unworkability and inhumanity of capital punishment on full display,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, a group that champions restorative justice and an end to the death penalty.

She said state prison systems are increasingly “faced with the question of how to execute people with severe mental and physical health problems” particularly since America’s death-row populations are getting older and the average death-row inmate spends 15 years awaiting execution.

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