News Release

Supreme Court should show courage and address reversal of Rakoff death penalty decision

Reliance on precedent, denial of truth 

Washington, DC (December 10, 2002) -- In response to today's ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which overturned U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff's July decision holding the federal death penalty unconstitutional due to errors in the system that have resulted in more than 100 wrongful death penalty convictions, Lawrence Goldman, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, issued the following statement:

"The Second Circuit feels bound by precedent, but Judge Rakoff instead felt bound by the reality that innocent people will die under the current system.

"Across the country, 102 persons sentenced to death have been freed, many on incontrovertible scientific evidence of their innocence. Judge Rakoff's courageous decision recognized that there is more to go on now than in previous challenges: that the newly discovered evidence behind the spate of recent exonerations now proves that the killing of innocent persons by our flawed death penalty machine is inevitable. He was not wrong in concluding that these flaws amount to a violation of due process.

"Several Justices have shown concern for the same issues that led Judge Rakoff to reach his conclusions. We hope the Supreme Court will take this case and address these concerns as soon as possible. Innocent lives hang in the balance." 

Goldman is a criminal defense lawyer in New York City. He can be reached at (212) 997-7499.

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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.