Because freedom can't protect itself
Just a question for clarification: No one disputes that either the Federal or Rhode Island Government can prosecute the defendant. In fact, it is not uncommon for State's to transfer individuals caught in their jurisdictions to the Federal Government so the Feds can prosecute. Question 1: Ignoring the moral issues with the death penalty, in any other situation, would the State (any State) have the right to say, "No, this one is ours. We will prosecute." Ignoring punishment, can a State withhold a prisoner from the Federal Government? If not, I don't see how Rhode Island public policy against the death penalty is any defense to the transfer. First, defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Second, the defendant only faces the death penalty, it is not a guaranteed sentence. So, I would imagine while those against the death penalty might want an exception (where there is none) I don't think Rhode Island has a right to demand what they want. The death penalty is a federal sentence and is legal so what is the legal argument against transfer to the Federal Government? RI can try and convince the Feds to let RI handle the matter, but as a matter of law, do they have any right, recourse, etc?
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