News Release ~ 2002-4

Criminal defense bar sees hope in federal judge''s opinion requiring prosecutors to justify federal death penalty

Judicial recognition of death penalty flaws will stimulate dialogue 

Washington, DC -- In response to the opinion issued by Judge Jed Rakoff of the federal district court for the Southern District of New York allowing prosecutors until May 15 to justify seeking the death penalty in light of evidence of numerous death sentences given to innocent persons, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Death Penalty Counsel Chris Adams issued the following statement:

"The judge can give them until May 15, or he can give them a year, but they won''t be able to prove that our system can guarantee that an innocent person won''t be killed, because it can''t.

"The prosecutors cannot change the fact that 100 death row inmates have been exonerated since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1973. If they are honest, they could agree to adopt the changes recommended by the recent bipartisan report from Illinois, but that still would not make the system perfect.

"Of course, Attorney General Ashcroft will fight this, and it remains to be seen what Judge Rakoff''s final ruling will be. But the judge''s decision will contribute to the discussion of why innocent people are being sentenced to death and why we are the only remaining major western nation still imposing the death penalty." 

Adams can be reached at (404)688-1202, ext. 204.

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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