FROM Bert Brandenburg
The Death Penalty Faces Another Trial Oklahoma is investigating last week's execution of Clayton Lockett — so horribly botched one witness said, "It looked like torture." The state used a mixture of lethal drugs never used before in that combination. Lockett was conscious for several minutes before dying of a heart attack. The state Supreme Court tried to delay his execution, but the legislature and the governor threatened impeachment, and the justices let it go ahead. Similar incidents in other states have raised questions about drugs used for lethal injections. Are they "cruel and unusual'' or does the punishment fit the crime? Why is there so much secrecy about the death penalty, as public support is declining?
Judicial Independence, Elections and Provocative Rulings In April of last year, the seven-member Supreme Court of Iowa effectively legalized same-sex marriage in a unanimous opinion. Last week, three of the justices faced a retention election, and all three were thrown out by the voters. What's the message to other judges whose decisions might be unpopular? Has fundraising for judicial campaigns, which has doubled in ten years to $206 million nationwide, eroded voter confidence in judicial independence? Are judges the guardians of minority rights against public opinion or "legislators in robes" who should be accountable to the people?
Should Judges Be Elected? In April of last year, the seven-member Supreme Court of Iowa ruled unanimously that the state law against same-sex marriage was a violation of equal rights. Last week, three of the justices faced a retention election and all three were thrown out by the voters. What's the message to other judges whose decisions might be unpopular? Fundraising for judicial campaigns has doubled in ten years to $206 million nationwide. Has that eroded voter confidence in judicial independence? Are judges the guardians of minority rights against public opinion or "legislators in robes" who should be accountable to the people?
Voters to Consider Curbs on Judicial Authority South Dakota's " Jail 4 Judges " measure, Amendment E, would allow citizens to sue judges who made legal decisions they didn't like. It's the most Draconian evidence of a national movement to control what backers call "a system gone out of control." In addition to South Dakota, Oregon , Colorado and North Dakota all have ballot measures that would limit the independence of judges. Is the judiciary at risk as an institution?
A New York Times op-ed on climate change sparks uproar The New York Times is embroiled in a public furor over a new columnist, who wrote that scientific uncertainty is reason for debate about climate change. Many conservatives are delighted. Is America's leading liberal newspaper fostering climate denial? This is the latest in our series, "The Emotional States of America."
Future of the Palestinians as Trump welcomes Abbas President Trump says there's "no reason there can't be peace" between Israel and the Palestinians… but the first step will have to be unity between the West Bank and Gaza. Are the Palestinian Authority and Hamas any closer to speaking with one voice?
Trump's Russia ties intensify with Comey firing Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe contradicted the Trump White House today, insisting the Bureau had not lost faith in former Director James Comey. He promised to notify the committee of any interference into investigation of the Trump campaign's contacts with Vladimir Putin's Russia. What do we know about those contacts… and how they relate to Trump's business interests and those of his family?