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An interesting dissection from Aliza Plener Cover, a law professor:
In August, Pope Francis declared the death penalty morally unacceptable in all circumstances and committed the church to its global abolition. This pronouncement broke from previous Catholic teaching, which permitted the death penalty in “very rare” cases of “absolute necessity.”
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Death penalty abolitionists hold out hope that the pope’s new call to action may eventually sway the American public: Catholic voters and politicians might become more inclined to repeal the death penalty, Catholic prosecutors might increasingly exercise their discretion not to pursue capital punishment, and Catholic judges (including the five Catholic justices on the Supreme Court) might grow more receptive to legal arguments that limit the practice. A change in public opinion could also influence the Supreme Court, which considers society’s “evolving standards of decency” in evaluating whether a punishment is “cruel and unusual” under the Eighth Amendment.
But because of the anomalous way we select juries in capital cases, greater opposition to the death penalty among Catholics could, counterintuitively, increase the number of death sentences imposed in this country. Such opposition could even solidify judicial support...
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