News Release ~ 03/03/1997

ABA Should 'Take All Appropriate Action' To Implement Death Penalty Moratorium

Washington, DC (March 3, 1997) -- The Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) expressed its support of the death penalty moratorium proposed by the American Bar Association earlier this month, and urged the ABA "to take all appropriate action with all deliberate speed to bring about its implementation." The Board unanimously passed its resolution at NACDL's Mid-Winter Meeting in New Orleans.

NACDL President Judy Clarke wrote ABA President Lee Cooper that the ABA "took a wise and courageous step in calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty until such time as capital case defendants are ensured due process at all stages and risks that innocent persons may be executed are eliminated."

"The ABA, and you as its leader, wield significant influence in Congress, in the state legislatures, and in the fashioning of public opinion," Clarke said in the letter. "We urge you and your association to give the highest priority to full implementation of the moratorium, through filing of amicus pleadings to stay ongoing executions, and through the use of ABA publications, public affairs activities, legislative testimony, and lobbying influence. The American people, and our legislators, governors and judges need to be made fully aware of the unfairness which pervades and perverts our precious criminal justice system. Putting the full weight of the ABA behind an intensive effort to correct the current infringements on due process and right to counsel will prove of inestimable value to restoring fairness to our nation's criminal justice system."

The NACDL Resolution further urges "that the ABA strive in an affirmative manner to correct these infringements of the fundamental rights of American citizens."

In her letter, Clarke cited the comments of former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun on the issue -- "[T]he death penalty remains fraught with arbitrariness, discrimination, caprice, and mistake," despite decades of legal tinkering. Clarke noted that "while other civilized nations progressively move to abolish capital punishment, the United States is adding extensively to the list of crimes which adults and children may be killed by their government."  

< Click Here > for a copy of NACDL's resolution.

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 9,000 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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