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September 20, 2004

Powerful report with lots of data and insights

In a post last week here, I previewed a report coming from the Death Penalty Information Center entitled "Innocence and the Crisis in the American Death Penalty." The full report is now available here, and it includes a lot of interesting data on the application of the death penalty over the last 30 years. As the title suggests, the report's focus is particularly on the number, pattern and nature of exonerations of persons sentenced to death.

Though there is much in report worthy of thoughtful commentary, I was struck particularly by this observation concerning the realities of sentencing reform:

New Proposals for Legal Reform: numerous public and private commissions have made recommendations to improve the reliability and fairness of the justice system in handling capital cases. Some have called for a halt to all executions while this crisis is being addressed. For the most part, only the most modest reforms have been adopted.

This telling observation is one of the many reasons I have lately become a fan of the Blakely decision. No shortage of public and private commissions have made recommendations to improve the operation of the federal sentencing system; for just very recent examples, consider the potent ABA Kennedy Report (available here) and the American College of Trial Lawyers report (available here). And yet, before Blakely, all the "reforms" were going in the opposite direction as evidenced by the Feeney Amendment and the proposal of "Feeney II" (background here). After Blakely, there is real talk of real reform (although I realize a lot of folks inside and outside the Beltway expect things to get worse, not better, in the wake of Blakely).

September 20, 2004 at 04:52 PM | Permalink

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