Michigan, the first state to abolish capital punishment, has one man awaiting execution ordered by a jury in Grand Rapids and three more facing possible death penalties in Detroit, says the Detroit News. The apparent contradiction stems from the fact Michigan, which banned the death penalty in 1847, is subject to capital punishment for certain federal crimes. In addition to Michigan, federal death penalty verdicts have been returned since 2000 in Massachusetts, Vermont, North Dakota, Iowa and West Virginia — all states without the death penalty.
No death penalty was imposed in a nondeath penalty state etween 1988, when the federal death penalty was reinstated, and 2000, when President Bush was elected. The former U.S. attorney in Grand Rapids, Margaret Chiara, fired along with seven other U.S. attorneys early this year, clashed with the Bush administration over capital punishment. Former U.S. Attorney Michael Dettmer believes Chiara, who once studied to be a nun, was axed by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales because of her opposition to capital punishment. In 2001, then Attorney General John Ashcroft added a passage to the U.S. Attorney’s Manual, which guides federal prosecutors on when to seek the death penalty, said law Prof. David Bruck of Washington & Lee University. It said that the adequacy of punishment available under state law is a factor the feds should consider when weighing whether to seek the death penalty. “The idea that an issue as controversial and emotionally charged as the death penalty should be taken away from local state control and put under the discretion of government functionaries behind a desk in Washington is the kind of Washington-knows-best thinking that conservatives usually lay at the door of liberals,” Bruck said.