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December 3, 2020

Group of criminal justice leaders call for ending federal death penalty immediately

As detailed in this press release from Fair and Just Prosecution, " a bipartisan group of nearly 100 criminal justice leaders — including over 60 current elected prosecutors (District Attorneys, State Attorneys, Prosecuting Attorneys and Attorneys General), nine former U.S. Attorneys and 14 current and former Police Chiefs and Sheriffs — issued a joint statement calling for an immediate halt to federal executions and asking the President to commute the sentences of the five people now scheduled to be executed by the federal government over the next two months."  The full three-page joint statement and the list of signatories is available here, and the statement gets started this way: 

We are a group of nearly 100 current and former elected prosecutors, Attorneys General, and law enforcement leaders, and former United States Attorneys and Department of Justice officials writing in opposition to the application of the death penalty, and in support of clemency, for those individuals scheduled for federal execution in the coming months. Case after case has revealed that our nation’s long experiment with the death penalty has failed.  The process is broken, implicates systemic racism and constitutional concerns, and distinguishes our country from many other democratic nations in the world. If ever there were a time to revisit this practice, that time is now.

Many have tried for over forty years to make America’s death penalty system just.  Yet the reality is that our nation’s use of this sanction cannot be repaired, and it should be ended.  The death penalty raises serious concerns in tension with the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law.

It is unequally and arbitrarily applied, ineffective at improving public safety, and a waste of taxpayer resources; and its use presents the perilous risk of executing an innocent person.  We also now know that we have not executed the worst of the worst, but often instead put to death the unluckiest of the unlucky — the impoverished, the poorly represented, and the most broken.  Time and again, we have executed individuals with long histories of debilitating mental illness, childhoods marred by unspeakable physical and mental abuse, and intellectual disabilities that have prevented them from leading independent adult lives.  We have executed individuals with trial lawyers so derelict in their duties and obligations that they never bothered to uncover long histories of illness and trauma. We have also likely executed the innocent.

December 3, 2020 at 12:53 PM | Permalink


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