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A Federal Death Penalty Authorization

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In the federal system, the authorization to seek the death penalty is made centrally by the Attorney General.* I had expected few or no authorizations from AG Eric Holder. That did not bother me much, as there are very few cases that should be both capital and federal. The death penalty is for murder and major crimes against national security, and very few of the former should be federal cases.

There are a few that should be, though, and the AG has authorized the DP in one of the few, John Ellis reports for the Fresno Bee.

Newly appointed Attorney General Eric Holder has authorized prosecutors to seek the death penalty against two inmates at Atwater's high-security federal penitentiary suspected of stabbing and killing a correctional officer last June....

Holder ... sent a two-paragraph letter to acting U.S. Attorney Larry Brown that he was "authorized and directed" to seek the death penalty against Jose Cabrera Sablan and James Leon Guerrero.

The two inmates, who are both from Guam, are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Chowchilla resident Jose Rivera, a U.S. Navy veteran who served four years in the military, including two tours in Iraq.

Rivera, 22, died June 20 when Sablan and Guerrero allegedly stabbed him through the heart with a prison-made shank. Both inmates were already serving life sentences for earlier crimes.

That last fact proves, once again, that a life sentence does not guarantee an inmate will not commit murder.
* The anti side complains that applying uniform capital charging standards nationwide shows lack of respect for local wishes. In states where the decision is made locally, they complain about "geographic disparity."

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Of course, were the Constitution actually followed, this crime could be one with a mandatory death penalty.

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