The US Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday refused a request [order, PDF] to decide on whether the death penalty is unconstitutional. Lamondre Tucker, who murdered his pregnant girlfriend in 2008 asked the court to grant certiorari in Tucker v. Louisiana [SCOTUSblog materials] to rule on the constitutionality of the death penalty. Justice Stephen Breyer dissented from the denial of certiorari, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Breyer has long argued against [WP report] the constitutionality of the death penalty as currently applied. Breyer noted that Tucker may have been wrongly sentenced, as the district in which he was sentenced imposes half the death sentences in Louisiana even though it only accounts for 5 percent of the state’s population and homicides.
Capital punishment [JURIST op-ed] remains a controversial issue in the US and worldwide. In April Virginia’s General Assembly voted [JURIST report] to keep secret the identities of suppliers of lethal injection drugs. In February the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rejected [JURIST report] a Georgia death row inmate’s legal challenge to the death penalty. In January Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood stated that he plans to ask lawmakers to approve the firing squad, electrocution or nitrogen gas as alternate methods of execution if the state prohibits lethal injection [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court in January ruled [JURIST report] in Kansas v. Carr [opinion, PDF] that a jury in a death penalty case does not need to be advised that mitigating factors, which can lessen the severity of a criminal act, do not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt like aggravating factors.