For Immediate Release
Constitution Project Sends Letter from Former Law Enforcement Officials Rejecting Death Penalty Attacks on Goodwin Liu
Similar letter sent last week from Co-Chairs of Project's Death Penalty Committee
WASHINGTON - Yesterday, in a letter organized by the Constitution
Project and sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, 27 former judges and
prosecutors expressed concern with the recent attacks on Professor
Goodwin Liu, President Obama's nominee to the United States Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, regarding his views on the death penalty.
While not taking a position on Professor Liu's nomination, the
signatories to the letter, including both supporters and opponents of
capital punishment, stated that the attacks on Professor Liu for his
view on the death penalty are erroneous and misleading.
The former judges and prosecutors rejected the
analysis the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation recently submitted to the
Senate Judiciary Committee, which alleged that, if confirmed, Professor
Liu would advance an "anti-death penalty agenda." An independent
examination requested by the Constitution Project of Professor Liu's
record found that he "takes no position on the death penalty... other
than to state that he believes 'the Supreme Court has the ultimate
responsibility for ensuring fairness in the administration of the death
According to the signatories to the letter,
Professor Liu's commitment to ensuring fairness in death penalty cases
is essential for a judicial nominee.
The letter states, in part:
Liu has expressed a belief that every United States judge must exercise
the utmost care to ensure that the fundamental due process rights of
persons accused of crimes are protected. While our individual views
about the propriety of the death penalty may vary, we all believe that
it is the appropriate role of an appellate judge to ensure that these
due process rights have not been violated and that every defendant is
afforded a fair trial. This is especially true in death penalty cases,
where the nature of the punishment is uniquely irreversible. "We applaud Professor Liu's commitment to ensuring
the constitutional rights of defendants facing the death penalty.
Contrary to his critics' claims, his commitment to the Constitution is
commendable and vital for anyone seeking a position in what is often the
court of last resort for individuals seeking to protect their
Late last week, two Co-Chairs of the Constitution
Project's Death Penalty Committee, former Texas Governor Mark White, and
former Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court Gerald Kogan, sent a
similar letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, rejecting the
assertions about Professor Liu's views on the death penalty.
In their letter, they state in part:
a former governor of Texas who oversaw the executions of 19 condemned
criminals, and a former Florida Supreme Court justice who upheld
numerous death sentences and, before that, headed the Dade County
capital crimes prosecution unit, we are well-acquainted with the death
penalty and its application. We decry the baseless claim that Professor
Liu's commitment to upholding constitutional safeguards, such as
competent counsel, a fair trial, and full judicial review, is anything
other than appropriate -- indeed vital -- for any judge, particularly in
capital cases where a person's life hangs in the balance."
Additionally, Bob Barr, former Republican member of
Congress from Georgia and a member of the Project's Death Penalty
Committee, wrote a column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
on Monday, similarly rejecting the criticism of Professor Liu's stance
on the death penalty, stating, "[w]hile there may be many reasons to
oppose Liu's confirmation, his concern for due process in capital cases
should not be among them. And in fact, his views are shared by many
scholars, lawyers, and public officials from across the ideological
To view a copy of the letter from former judges
and prosecutors, sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, go to: http://www.
To view a copy of the letter from Governor Mark
White and Justice Gerald Kogan, also sent to the Senate Judiciary
Committee, go to: http://www.
To view Congressman Bob Barr's column in the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, go to: http://blogs.ajc.com/bob-barr-
The Constitution Project is a politically independent think tank established in 1997 to promote and defend constitutional safeguards. More information about the Constitution Project is available at http://constitutionproject.org/.