News Release

Defense Lawyers Urge Germany to Impose Economic Sanctions In Protest of LaGrand Executions

Washington, DC (March 1, 1999) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (U.S.) urges German companies which do business in the United States to withhold economic investment in the 38 states which execute imprisoned criminals. The 10,000-member organization is protesting last week’s execution of German national Karl LaGrand and the impending execution Wednesday of his brother Walter, also a German citizen. The LeGrand brothers, legal residents of the United States since 1967, were convicted of slaying a bank manager in 1982 during a bungled robbery.

“It is unconscionable that German corporations, such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW, located their prime U.S. facilities in two of the most egregious of the death penalty states,” said Gonzaga University Law Professor Speedy Rice, Vice-Chair of NACDL’s Death Penalty Abolition Committee. “We ask that Volkswagen not make the same mistake. If death penalty states lose jobs because of German opposition to capital punishment, they may rethink their position.”

In December 1997, NACDL representatives went to Strasbourg, France to support a proposed resolution under consideration by the European Parliament requesting European companies not invest in American states which execute prisoners convicted of crimes.


In the United States, most politicians see opposition to the death penalty, in any form or for any reason, as political suicide. Although the death penalty appears to enjoy broad support in this country, that support is intense emotional support rather than substantive support based on reason. As a result, most rational arguments against the death penalty fall on deaf ears. Since little progress has been made in the United States during the past decade an effort to enhance the death penalty dialogue beyond its social and moral issues is necessary. Thus, the National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and The Southern Center for Human Rights make the following proposals to create economic consequences for the death penalty states, and thereby, enhance the dialogue against the death penalty.

Europe’s long and substantive opposition to the death penalty provides a perfect vehicle for shifting the dialogue in the United States. Many European companies who do extensive business in America recognize the potential for economic expansion in the United States. With their headquarters and primary operations in European countries pledged to oppose the death penalty, these same European companies all too often locate their businesses and jobs in death penalty states. It is unconscionable that German corporations, such as Mercedes-Benz and Bavarian Motor Works (BMW), located their prime United States facilities in two of the most egregious death penalty states. This has to change, and the European community can bring about this change. If death penalty states lose jobs because of the death penalty, then eventually the dialogue will shift to the cost of having the ultimate penalty. We now have the opportunity to change the dialogue of death in the United States.

The precedent of economic consequences for social and political policies is already the rule of law in the United States. Under the Helms-Burton law, the United States is attempting to cut off all investment in Cuba and all support for its President, Fidel Castro. This United States law specifies a series of consequences for those companies that do business with Cuba, including denying entry into the United States by foreign executives and their families. The United States is bullying Europe to comply with it''s social and political agenda; and it''s effect has already been felt by European businesses. According to CNN, the ING Bank of the Netherlands has withdrawn direct financing for the Cuban sugar industry, in apparent deference to the Helms-Burton law. Now is the time for Europe to use its political and economic resources against the death penalty in the United States.

Right now, after Arizona has executed a German citizen, there is a prime opportunity for European action. Volkswagen/Audi AG, the German automaker, is contemplating building an assembly plant in the United States near the turn of the century. According to United States news sources, Volkswagen is focusing its search for a location in five southern states: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. These states have some of the most egregious records of imposing death against the poor, minorities, children, and mentally ill. (See Attached.) The European community, through both its governmental and non-governmental organizations, can pressure Volkswagen to locate to a non-death penalty state. (See Attached.) States such as Michigan, Iowa, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Wisconsin, etc, would provide Volkswagen excellent assembly locations. Germany is strongly opposed to the death penalty as is the European Union under Article I of Protocol Number 6 to the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. A major German automaker, such as Volkswagen, should not be putting its jobs and economic strength in a death penalty state.

By working together with our European counterparts we can bring the dialogue of death to a meaningful economic level and new doors will be opened to reverse death penalty policies in the United States. Please join us in this proposal to abolish the death penalty.

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Tanya Greene, Death Penalty Counsel for the NACDL
83 Poplar Street
Atlanta, GA 30303
404-688-1202 ext. 208
404-688-9440 Fax

Speedy Rice, Vice-Chair, NACDL Abolition Committee
Gonzaga University School of Law
E. 703 Sharp Ave.
Spokane, WA 99202
509-323-5842 Fax

Steven Hawkins, Executive Director
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
918 F Street NW, Ste. 601
Washington, D.C. 20004
202-347-2510 Fax


Thirteen United States jurisdictions do not have a death penalty: Alaska, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Thirty-eight United States have the Death Penalty.

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Twelve states have no minimum age restriction by statute: Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah,. Virginia, and Washington. Nine states have a minimum age restriction of 16 years old: Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Four states have a minimum age restriction of 17 years old: Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Texas. Thirteen states have a minimum age restriction of 18 years old: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Tennessee.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States, over 500 persons have been executed. Since 1973, over 160 children have been sentenced to death for crimes they committed as juveniles. The only other jurisdictions allowing the execution of children are: Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The United States and the State jurisdictions ignore the Vienna Convention designed to protect foreign nationals when arrested. German, French, Mexican, Thai and many other nationalities have been executed without being afforded the basic rights that are guaranteed under this important international treaty.


NACDL Communications Department

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 many thousands of 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 legal system.