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Delaware death penalty law declared unconstitutional by state’s highest court

Delaware’s death penalty is unconstitutional, the state’s Supreme Court declared on Tuesday.

As Jessica Masulli Reyes reported for the News Journal, the 148-page opinion struck down how the death penalty is applied in Delaware, declaring it a violation of the Sixth Amendment–sanctioned role of a jury. The ruling follows the US Supreme Court’s January decision against Florida’s death penalty on similar grounds.

So this doesn’t mean that Delaware’s death penalty is completely dead, since it could be revived by the state’s legislature if lawmakers alter how a death sentence is carried out.

But if Delaware’s legislature does not act, New Hampshire will become the only state in the northeastern part of the country that still allows the death penalty:

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 2015 had the lowest number of death sentences since the death penalty was reinstituted in 1973 — continuing an overall drop since 1996. With the Delaware Supreme Court’s decision, that trend is set to continue.

For more about the death penalty and its decline, read Vox’s explainer:


Watch: Why people die early in each country, explained in 3 minutes

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