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Supreme Court Gives Go-Ahead to Resume Federal Executions

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Death-penalty opponents hold a protest in front of the Supreme Court in July 2019. (Death Penalty Action)
Death-penalty opponents hold a protest in front of the Supreme Court in July 2019. (Death Penalty Action)
 By Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA - Producer, Contact
June 30, 2020

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Supreme Court's rejection of a challenge to new federal death penalty protocols is a win for the Trump administration and paves the way for the federal government to resume executions next month for the first time in two decades.

The justices refused to hear an appeal from four inmates who were convicted of killing children, according to anti-death penalty organizer Abe Bonowitz. He said the decision is a step backward for all inmates on death row and\ that it reinforces what many call an immoral system of punishment.

"As a person who used to support the death penalty, I tried to prove that the system worked," Bonowitz said. "And in trying to prove that it worked, I found out and proved to myself that we have a public policy that is failing us on economic, moral, social and legal grounds."

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor noted they would have blocked the executions from going forward. Now the four inmates will face execution starting in mid-July.

Bonowitz said the decision is especially significant now as people across the country are demanding that leaders rethink crime, punishment and justice in light of George Floyd's death at the hands of a white police officer.

Bonowitz, whose group is part of a coalition holding an annual vigil against the death penalty outside the Supreme Court this week, said reports show that racial discrimination plays a major role in capital-punishment cases.

"When the victim was a person of color, the government is much less likely to seek a death sentence in the case," he said. "When the person who is the victim in a crime was a white person, especially if they were white women, then they're more likely to seek the death sentence in a case."

While more states have abolished the death penalty in recent years, Virginia has not. The Commonwealth has executed nearly 1,400 people in its 412-year history - more than any other state.

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