The federal death penalty in America, unused since 2003, is plainly constitutional. The most conservative Supreme Court in 80 years certainly will say so when next asked. So there is every reason to think that in the next year or so the federal “machinery of death” will begin to churn again in the age of Trump. But there still are vital limitations to the scope of capital punishment, restrictions set into law by recent Supreme Court precedent, and those limits are about to be tested by a new wave of litigation crashing into federal court in the wake of the administration’s announcement that it will begin executing federal prisoners once again.


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