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Letters to the 107th Congress

March 28, 2001

Honorable Russ Feingold
United States Senate
Washington , DC 20510

Dear Senator Feingold:

On behalf of the American Bar Association, I write to express our strong support for your legislation, S.233, to place a moratorium on federal executions and to urge the states to do the same. We share your deep concern regarding the many problems the have come to light involving the administration of the death penalty on both the federal and state levels, and we believe that we must do all that we can to ensure due process and fairness in the capital punishment system.

With the exception of our unequivocal opposition to the imposition of the death penalty on individuals who committed their crimes while juveniles or who are mentally retarded, the American Bar Association has not taken a position on the death penalty per se. However, the Association for some time has voiced serious concerns about the administration of the capital punishment system in this country. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the Association has adopted numerous policies concerning the administration of capital punishment, including the necessity of competent counsel at all stages of the proceedings, of proper procedures for appellate and post-conviction review, and of the elimination of racial and ethnic bias.

Your legislation, S.233, the National Death Penalty Moratorium Act of 2001, recognizes that disturbing, serious flaws in the administration of the death penalty have been identified in both the federal and state systems. A recent Justice Department study found geographic and racial disparities indicative of bias in the application of the federal death penalty. Advances in DNA technology and the discovery of other new evidence have helped win freedom for dozens of wrongfully convicted Death Row inmates in several states over the last decade. As a consequence, death penalty moratorium or reform legislation has been introduced in most death penalty states, and more than twenty local governments, such as Atlanta, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina, have passed moratorium resolutions.

The American Bar Association appreciates your attention to this critical issue for our justice system, and we urge you and your colleagues to pass this legislation without delay. Please call on me if we can assist you in any way.


Martha Barnett
President, American Bar Association

Cc: Members of the Committee on the Judiciary

107th Congress Letters Home

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