Expansion Of Federal Death Penalty Counter To Furthering Civil Rights, Says ACLU

For Immediate Release

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(202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org 

Expansion Of Federal Death Penalty Counter To Furthering Civil Rights, Says ACLU

Senate Adopts Death Penalty Amendment To Hate Crimes Provision

WASHINGTON - The
U.S. Senate yesterday passed an amendment extending the death penalty
for certain hate crimes. The amendment, sponsored by Senator Jeff
Sessions (R-AL), was added to the hate crimes amendment to the Defense
authorization bill that passed last Thursday. In a letter sent to
Senators, the American Civil Liberties Union urged lawmakers to oppose
this misguided and wrong expansion of the federal death penalty.

 
“The
expansion of the federal death penalty stands in stark contrast to
furthering the cause of civil rights in the United States,” said
Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “The death penalty
is always wrong. Capital punishment has been proven to be such an
expensive and discriminatory punishment that Congress should oppose any
effort to expand its scope and reach. At a time when evidence is
mounting that scores of innocent defendants have been sentenced to
death, Congress should steer clear of expanding the death penalty."
 
Problems,
such as inadequate defense counsel and racial disparities, have always
plagued the death penalty system in the United States. According to the
Death Penalty Information Center, 135 innocent people have been
exonerated from death row since 1973, including five so far in 2009
alone.
 
In
addition to this death penalty amendment, the ACLU also did not support
the underlying hate crime provision in the defense authorization bill
which would have a chilling effect on free speech and association. The
U.S. House of Representatives has a welcome version of the hate crimes
bill that protects speech and association as well as gives the federal
government new authority to prosecute certain violent acts based on
race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation,
gender identity and disability.
 
The ACLU letter to Senators is available at http://www.aclu.org/crimjustice/deathpenalty/40374leg20090720.html
 
For a copy of a letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights to Senators, go to http://www.aclu.org/crimjustice/deathpenalty/40375leg20090720.html
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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