Capital punishment systems ‘flawed’

CHICAGO – The American Bar Association, concluding a three-year study of capital punishment systems in eight states, found so many inequities and shortfalls that the group is calling for a nationwide moratorium on executions.

In a study released today, the organization, which comprises more than 400,000 attorneys, said that death penalty systems in Indiana, Georgia, Ohio, Alabama and Tennessee in particular had so many problems that those states should institute a temporary halt to executions immediately until further study can be conducted.

They were among eight states studied that provided the basis for the association’s call to halt executions nationwide.

“After carefully studying the way states across the spectrum handle executions, it has become crystal clear that the process is deeply flawed,” Stephen Hanlon, chairman of the ABA’s Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project, said in a statement.

The study also focused on death penalty systems in Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania, but did not find the same serious conditions as cited in the other five. The ABA says it does not take a position either for or against the death penalty.

“The death penalty system is rife with irregularity – supporting the need for a moratorium until states can ensure fairness and accuracy,” Hanlon said.

Joshua Marquis, district attorney in Clatsop County, Ore., and a vice president of the National District Attorneys Association, said, “I think the ABA should drop its pretense of being neutral on the death penalty. … They are being disingenuous by simply declaring that they want a moratorium.”

Marquis, who supports the death penalty, said, “There is no doubt that you could always improve on the system. But the things they’ve cited suggest epidemics when they aren’t.

“It is completely false to say that across the board crime labs are riddled with problems or that evidence is not retained,” Marquis said. Beginning in 1997, the ABA called for moratoriums until “a thorough and exhaustive study to determine whether its system meets legal standards for fairness and due process” can be conducted.

“When a life is at stake, there is no room for error or injustice,” the new report said. “Ultimately, serious problems were found in every state death penalty system.”


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