December 3, 2009
"No Decrease In Death Penalty Approval Rate"The title of this post is the headline of this notable new NPR piece discussing the absence of significant change in the handling of the federal death penalty under the new Obama Administration. Here are excerpts:
During the Bush administration, opponents of capital punishment criticized the Justice Department for bringing federal death penalty cases too often and in states that have outlawed execution as a form of punishment.
With Attorney General Eric Holder running the department, many people expected to see a more limited use of the tactic. But so far, Holder is instructing prosecutors to seek the death penalty at roughly the same rate as President Bush's last attorney general.... Holder has authorized death penalty prosecutions at a pace comparable to that of his immediate predecessor, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Center. The center helps defense lawyers in capital cases, and it also tracks how often an attorney general authorizes prosecutors to seek the death penalty.
According to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Center, President Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, greenlighted 139 federal death penalty prosecutions out of 641 cases that might have been eligible for capital punishment. That's a 22 percent approval rate. Ashcroft's successor, Alberto Gonzales, authorized prosecutors to seek the death penalty in 81 out of 423 possible cases, for a 19 percent approval rate.
Michael Mukasey approved 21 out of 159 cases, so his approval rate was 13 percent. Holder's approval rate is almost identical to Mukasey's. As of Oct. 3, capital defense lawyers say, Holder had authorized prosecutors to seek the death penalty in 7 cases out of 61 that might have been eligible for capital punishment. That's an 11 percent approval rate.
If you include the five alleged Sept. 11 conspirators headed to New York from Guantanamo for a federal death penalty trial, the rate climbs higher. And Thanksgiving week, Holder instructed prosecutors to seek the death penalty in another four cases....
There is also a question of local standards in death penalty enforcement. Many states have outlawed the death penalty, but even in those states, federal prosecutors can still bring capital charges....
Ashcroft brought federal death penalty cases in states that have outlawed capital punishment. When asked for his view on bringing federal death penalty cases in states that have outlawed capital punishment, Holder said, "I wouldn't say that there's a policy where we're doing it on a state-by-state basis. It really is a case-by-case basis."
December 3, 2009 at 08:04 AM | Permalink
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Federal Use of Death Penalty Stays the Same: Doug Berman posts on Sentencing Law and Policy that USDoJ is seeking the death penalty at roughly the same rate under the Obama Administration as it did under the last Bush Administration... [Read More]
Tracked on Dec 3, 2009 6:59:02 PM
It doesn't seem that the NPR piece delved into the execution delays imposed on the federal system and apparent foot-dragging by DOJ . . ..
Posted by: federalist | Dec 3, 2009 8:59:21 AM
And the anti's are complaining? That a 1/2 drop since Ashcroft. The only wrinkle is that Bush's last AG was also mostly opposed to the DP and also approved it less often than the first two.
What were they expecting? A national Kamala Harris who never seeks the death penalty no matter what?
Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Dec 3, 2009 12:30:19 PM
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THE NATIONAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE COMMISSION ACT OF 2009
The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 that I introduced in the Senate on March 26, 2009 will create a blue-ribbon commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom.
I believe that it is time to bring together the best minds in America to confer, report, and make concrete recommendations about how we can reform the process. This legislation has already garnered wide bipartisan support in Congress and from interest groups representing a range of backgrounds and political viewpoints.
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Post-incarceration re-entry programs are haphazard and often nonexistent, undermining public safety and making it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to become full, contributing members of society. America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. Our failure to address this problem has caused the nation's prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous.
We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives. We need to fix the system. Doing so will require a major nationwide recalculation of who goes to prison and for how long and of how we address the long-term consequences of incarceration. MATERIALS & RESOURCES Read the legislation, S. 714 Fact sheet on the legislation Senator Webb's floor speech introducing the legislation PARADE Magazine cover story, "What's Wrong with our Prisons?" Senator Jim Webb,
Sunday March 29, 2009 The scope of the problem: relevant charts and graphs List of Support for the National Criminal Justice Commission Act Of 2009 Opening Statement of Sen. Webb at Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on National Criminal Justice Commission Act, June 11, 2009 Watch Senator Webb's Floor Speech Introducing the Legislation, March 26, 2009 Senator Webb's article on the Huffington Post, "Why We Must Reform Our Criminal Justice System" MATERIALS FROM PAST HEARINGS, SYMPOSIUMS Joint Economic Committee Hearing, conducted by Senator Webb, "Mass Incarceration in the United States: At What Cost?" October 2007 Joint Economic Committee Hearing, conducted by Senator Webb, "Illegal Drugs: Economic Impact, Societal Costs, and Policy Responses,"
June 2008 George Mason University Symposium, hosted by Senator Webb and the GMU Administration of Justice Department, "Drugs in America: Trafficking, Policy and Sentencing," October 2008 Senator Webb's Keynote Address to the Brookings Institution's Policy Roundtable on the Challenges to Prisoner Re-entry, December 2008 NEWS ARTICLES & COMMENTARY Virginian Pilot editorial: "Time to reconsider U.S. justice system," April 6, 2009 Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star: "Behind-bars review," April 5, 2009 The Washington Post Writers Group: "Webb Leads the Charge for Much-Needed Drug, Prison Reform," April 5, 2009 Economist: "A Nation of Jailbirds," April 2, 2009 Daily Press: "Go After the Real Problem," March 31, 2009 New York Times: "Reviewing Criminal Justice," March 30, 2009 Lynchburg News & Advance: "Webb Takes on Politics' Third Rail: Prison Reform," March 29, 2009 Salon.com: "Jim Webb's courage v. the "pragmatism" excuse for politicians," March 28, 2009 The Virginian Pilot Editorial:
"Time to Rethink Goals of Prison," January 5, 2009 Roanoke Times Editorial: "The Criminal Justice System Needs Help," January 5, 2009 Las Vegas Sun Editorial: "Voice for Broken Prisons," January 3, 2009 U.S. News & World Report: "James Webb Shows Leadership Regarding Prison Reform," January 2, 2009 New York Times Editorial: "Sen. Webb's Call for Prison Reform," January 1, 2009 Washington Post: "Webb Sets His Sights On Prison Reform," December 29, 2008 Daily Press: "Alternative to Jail for Addicts Gains New Supporter," December 28, 2008 The Virginian Pilot: "Senator Elevates Debate on Failed Drug, Prison Policies," October 18, 2008 The Roanoke Times Editorial: "A Sensible Call for Sentencing Reform," October 13, 2008 Washington Post Op-Ed: "Two Separate Societies: One in Prison, One Not," April 15, 2008
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Posted by: LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS | Feb 24, 2010 6:38:51 PM