Outside the Bubble 2/13/14

Washington Governor Suspend Death Penalty

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington said Tuesday that he was suspending the use of the death penalty in the state, announcing a move that he hoped would allow officials to “join a growing national conversation about capital punishment”. (New York Times, “Washington Governor Suspends Death Penalty” 2.11.14)

The Democrat said he came to the decision after months of review, meetings with family members of victims, prosecutors and law enforcement.

“There have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment, there are too many flaws in this system today,” Inslee said at a news conference. “There is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.” (Huffington Post, “Washington Death Penalty Suspended by Governor Jay Inslee” 2.11.14)

Inslee’s move is not entirely unprecedented. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a reprieve to one prisoner on his state’s death row last year. In 2011, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber put a moratorium on all executions. And in 2003, Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted all death penalty sentences to life sentences. (Washington Post, “Washington Governor Suspends Death Penalty” 2.11.14)

Furthermore, 18 states have already abolished the death penalty, including Maryland which ended its policy of using the death penalty last year.

This act by the governor comes after a recent decision by the state Department of Corrections, which is in the process of changing its protocol to allow witnesses to executions to see the entire process, including the insertion of intravenous catheters during a lethal injection.

The new witness protocol, currently a draft that is in its final stages of approval, includes the use of television monitors to show the inmate entering the death chamber and being strapped down, as well as the insertion of the IVs, which had both previously been shielded from public view. (Huffington Post, “Washington Death Penalty Suspended by Governor Jay Inslee” 2.11.14)

The vast majority of executions in the U.S. happen in the South, according to statistics maintained by the DPIC. Since 1972, 1,116 of the 1,366 executions that took place in the U.S. have happened in Southern states. More than half the 39 executions that took place in 2013 happened in Texas and Florida.

But executions have been carried out less frequently in recent years, after peaking in 1999. That year, 98 prisoners were executed. In the last four years, fewer than 50 criminals were put to death per year. (Washington Post, “Washington Governor Suspends Death Penalty” 2.11.14)


French President Visits the US

US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande have reaffirmed their nations’ alliance after revelations of US snooping.

On day two of his trip to the US,  after a tour given by President Obama of Monticello, the historic home of Thomas Jefferson, the French leader said at the White House that mutual trust between the two nations had been restored. (BBC, “Obama and Hollande say trust restored after NSA spying” 2.11.14)

It was mostly all friendship and smiles as Obama and French President François Hollande emphasized their common values and united foreign policy in what is France’s first state visit to the US since 1996.

Obama praised Hollande as a courageous ally in the battle against extremism around the world. He continued, speaking  to Hollande’s focus on exiting foreign wars,  and hailed France as a model ally willing to bear the collective burden of keeping the world safe.

Hollande responded, saying “We stand together to combat terrorism, to respond to the threat of proliferating nuclear and chemical weapons, together to resolve the crises of the Middle East.” (France24, “Obama hails ‘enduring alliance’ between US and France” 2.11.14)

At Monticello, they toured the unique home designed by Jefferson, the Cabinet room Jefferson used for writing, architectural drafting and scientific observation. In addition, they saw the basement kitchen equipped with utensils he brought back from Paris after serving as the U.S. ambassador to France.

“Thomas Jefferson represents what’s best in America, but as we see as we travel through his home, what he also represents is the incredible bond and the incredible gifts that France gave to the United States, because he was a Francophile through and through,” Obama told reporters. (Reuters, “Obama, France’s Hollande make pilgrimage to Jefferson’s Monticello” 2.10.14)

Leading up to this meeting, there has been some tension between the US and  France following revelations that its leaders had been subject to spying from the National Security Agency.

Obama said there is no country with which the United States has “a no-spy agreement.” But he said the United States will try to protect privacy rights as it collects foreign intelligence.

Hollande said he and Obama “clarified things” about the spying scandal and “mutual trust has been restored.”

“That mutual trust must be based on respect for each other’s country but also based on protection, protection of private life, of personal data, the fact that any individual, in spite of technological progress, can be sure that he’s not being spied on. These are principles that unite us,” Hollande said. (France24, “Obama hails ‘enduring alliance’ between US and France” 2.11.14)

—News Editor, Noble Ingram

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