News Release ~ 02/01/2000

Illinois Governor Takes Courageous First Step

Criminal Defense Bar Encourages ‘Second Look’ at Death Penalty 

Washington, DC (February 1, 2000) -- The nation''s preeminent criminal defense bar association commends Illinois Gov. George Ryan for taking the decisive step of halting executions in that state following the release of 13 innocent men from death row.

When the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) met in Chicago last November, it expressed great concern regarding Illinois'' failure to enact systemic changes that responded directly to the causes of these wrongful convictions and to prevent future miscarriages of justice.

"While Illinois and the rest of the nation can benefit from the kind of further, careful examination of death penalty cases that Governor Ryan is proposing, the time has come for Illinois and for the rest of the country to ''no longer tinker with the machinery of death,''” said William B. Moffitt, NACDL president. "NACDL believes that the death penalty must be abandoned because it is both morally repugnant and violates civilized notions of decency. We have long been convinced that Justice Blackmun correctly concluded that the inevitability of factual, legal and moral error will continue to give us a system that will wrongly kill some defendants."

The costs of the death penalty in its original application and in repeated failed attempts to rectify its numerous defects is a burden that the criminal justice system cannot afford. As a nation, we would be safer and better protected were these resources redirected to better serve the criminal
justice as a whole.

NACDL emphasizes that Illinois is by no means the only state in which the death penalty has ensnared so many innocent people. Since 1973, 85 people have been freed from death rows throughout the nation. In NACDL''s judgment, Gov. Ryan has taken an important step, but it is only a first step. 

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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