News Release ~ 2002-2

Another judge sees the light; death penalty should be halted

Death penalty can no longer stand scrutiny 

Washington, DC -- A second federal judge has declared the federal death penalty statute unconstitutional on different grounds from those cited by the first. National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Lawrence Goldman thinks it is time for a federal moratorium.

"Two distinguished jurists have now found the federal death penalty unconstitutional, for two totally different reasons, both of which show fundamental flaws in the system" said Goldman, a criminal defense lawyer in New York City. "With those reasons, plus the reasons that have led to state moratoriums in Illinois and Maryland and to other recent judicial limitations, it''s time for a halt to the federal death penalty."

Concern over wrongful convictions has been a major factor in recent restrictions on the death penalty. More than 100 death row inmates have been exonerated since reinstatement of the death penalty in the early 1970s.

In its most recent term, the U.S. Supreme Court banned execution of the mentally retarded and reaffirmed the importance of jury determination in death penalty cases. More recently, three of the Court''s justices expressed reservations about executing juveniles.

"We should also consider the international climate," Goldman said. "As the only NATO member continuing to employ the death penalty, we are jeopardizing the cooperation we seek in the war on terror.

"President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft would be wise to announce a federal death penalty moratorium." 

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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