|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FEBRUARY 3, 2005
|CONTACT: National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
David Elliot, 202-543-9577, ext. 16
cell phone: 202-607-7036
NCADP Welcomes President Bush's Remarks on the Death Penalty; Says Now is the Time to Discuss Fairness
WASHINGTON -- February 3 -- The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty cautiously welcomes President Bushs State of the Union remarks urging Congress to fund a program providing training for lawyers in state capital murder cases.
This is only a first step, said Diann Rust-Tierney, NCADP executive director. Much more needs to be done before anyone can be assured that our current death penalty system is fair. President Bush proposed a $50 million, three-year program, with part of the money going to help train defense lawyers in capital cases. Bipartisan legislation approved last year and signed into law by President Bush actually calls for a level of funding at $375 million over five years, significantly more than Bush's proposal.
NCADP also welcomed the presidents call for funding for provisions of the Justice For All act that could allow some people on death row to seek DNA testing in an effort to establish their innocence. However, Rust-Tierney noted that DNA evidence is not a factor in the great majority of capital murder cases. Under then-Gov. Bush, 152 people in Texas were executed, despite claims of innocence, ineffective lawyers, and issues involving severe mental illness and mental retardation. We view President Bushs statements as an acknowledgment that mistakes have been made and continue to be made in capital cases, Rust-Tierney said.
The presidents remarks reflect a growing public concern about fairness in the administration of the death penalty. NCADP has opposed President Bushs nominee for attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, because of his failure to fully brief then-Gov. Bush on the facts surrounding pending executions in Texas. Both Governor Bush and his legal counsel at the time, Alberto Gonzales, failed to consider serious issues that went to the very heart of whether the death penalty was appropriate in individual cases, Rust-Tierney said.
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty was founded in 1976 and is the only fully-staffed national organization devoted specifically to abolishing the death penalty. NCADP is comprised of more than 100 local, state, national and international affiliates.