Stepping forward against death


On Aug. 2, 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled in Rauf v. Delaware that Benjamin Rauf—a former Temple University law student currently awaiting trial for the August 2015, murder of a fellow classmate—established that the state’s current death penalty scheme was unconstitutional in light of the early January U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision in Hurst v. Florida.

The Hurst case involved Florida’s death penalty and provisions that ask jurors to weigh aggravating factors supporting a death sentence against mitigating circumstances that justify a life imprisonment sentence.

In other words, the jury could only recommend a death sentence if it found that the defendant was truly deserving of death. The problem was that Florida judges could ignore a jury’s recommendation when sentencing a defendant to death.

When the Delaware Supreme Court declared the state’s death penalty process unconstitutional, it reasoned that the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires not a judge but a jury to unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt find that circumstances merit a death sentence. This is progress because America should never kill anyone where there is ambiguity.

The death penalty should be abolished

As Justice Stephen Breyer stated in his dissent in Glossip v. Gross, it is long past time for our nation to rid itself of the archaic practice of the death penalty, as we risk executing innocent individuals. As of October 2015, America has executed over 1,414 individuals since 1976. In addition, 156 individuals have been exonerated from death row–that is, found to be innocent and released – since 1973.  In other words, for every 10 people who have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S., one person has been set free.
Nobody is routing for the killers. Timothy McVeigh had his day in court, which is more than the children who perished in Oklahoma City got, but society really is no stronger for having killed  people. We should be celebrating this one step forward to inspire our labor against death.

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