The National Journal posts, "Jimmy Carter's Crusade Against the Death Penalty Is Lonely, But Is He Winning?" by Dustin Volz.
Former President Carter called for a national moratorium on capital punishment in the United States on Tuesday, declaring in a speech, "We should abolish the death penalty here and throughout the world."
Carter proceeded to meticulously enumerate the oft-cited ethical, financial, and legal reasons for his opposition, which are nothing new for the octogenarian; he expressed doubt about the death penalty as far back as his presidential campaigns.
"Perhaps the strongest argument against the death penalty is its extreme bias against the poor, minorities, and those with mental disabilities," Carter said at a national symposium hosted by the American Bar Association at the Carter Center in Atlanta. "It's hard to imagine a rich white man or woman going to the death chamber after being defended by expensive lawyers."
Carter's remarks come at a time when support for the death penalty among Americans has fallen to 60 percent, the lowest reading since 1972 and down from a mid-1990s high of 80 percent. States with capital punishment are also facing unprecedented challenges in their efforts to secure the drugs necessary to perform executions by way of lethal injection.
"Carter calls for abolition of death penalty," by Bill Rankin in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In 1973, Carter, then governor of Georgia, signed the state’s capital punishment statute into law after it had been struck down a year before by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case, Furman v. Georgia. The new law was upheld by the high court in 1976 in the case, Gregg v. Georgia.
Carter condemned Georgia’s burden of proof for inmates who say they should be ineligible for execution on grounds they are mentally disabled. Georgia is the only state in the country that requires inmates to prove their mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt.
In recent years, Carter has called for the state to commute the death sentence imposed against Warren Hill, who sits on death row for killing a fellow prison inmate. Hill was only able to prove his mental disability by a preponderance of the evidence — or more likely than not — and courts and that state parole board have rejected his claims.
Georgia’s burden of proof “makes is almost legally impossible” for inmates to prove they are mentally disabled, Carter said. “That would be hard for me to do if the jury was bipartisan in nature.”
AP coverage is, "Carter calls for abolition of death penalty," by Kate Brumback. It's via the Dalton Daily Citizen.
Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday there are overwhelming ethical, financial and religious reasons to abolish the death penalty all over the world.
Carter spoke at a daylong symposium on capital punishment at the Carter Center in Atlanta, but it wasn’t the first time the 89-year-old former president and former governor of Georgia has advocated ending capital punishment.
Statistics have shown that the possibility of the death penalty does not reduce violent crime that and crime doesn’t increase when executions are stopped, he said. He also said there are unfair racial, economic and geographic disparities in the application of the death penalty.
Carter noted that a majority of the executions since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976 have been carried out in Southern states, which are traditionally more conservative. But Carter said he doesn’t believe that opposing the death penalty has to be politically poisonous.
Sitting on a panel with Carter at the American Bar Association’s National Symposium on the Modern Death Penalty in America, Southern Center for Human Rights president Stephen Bright prodded Carter about the political viability of such a position in Georgia.
“Let’s say you were advising someone running for governor today, just hypothetically let’s say a member of your family was running for governor and asked you what position to take on the death penalty,” Bright said, drawing laughs from the crowd. Carter’s grandson, Georgia state Sen. Jason Carter, announced last week that he’s running for governor.
Carter laughed and then grew more serious in his response: “If I ever have someone like that in my family, I will give them a copy of the speech I just made and ask them to do what they believe in their heart is right because I don’t believe that the death penalty abolition would be an overwhelmingly a negative factor in Georgia politics.”
The key, Carter said, is stressing hefty alternative sentences, such as life in prison.
"Analysis: Wrongful convictions sharpen focus on death penalty," is by Maggie Clark of Stateline, via USA Today.
To ensure that more innocent people don't end up on death row, the American Bar Association has conducted assessments of the death penalty system in 12 states and issued recommendations ranging from stronger rules on police interrogations to protections for the mentally ill facing execution.
In its most recent report, researchers found that Virginia's death penalty lacked adequate protections to prevent an innocent person from being executed. The report recommended allowing more evidence to be released to the defense team, which former Virginia Republican Attorney General Mark Earley said was the only way to make sure the process is fair.
"By the time a case gets to the appellate review, a lot of the decisions about a defendant's guilt are already locked in. By that time, the deck is stacked against the defendant," Earley said during the panel discussion.
"I think the days of the death penalty in Virginia are numbered," Earley said, citing growing conservative discontent with the punishment. Earley supported the death penalty as a Republican state senator, but said he changed his mind after witnessing executions as the state attorney general.
In the last six years, six states have ended the death penalty bringing the total to 18. Earlier this year, North Carolina and Florida passed laws designed to shorten the length of time between conviction and execution.
Creative Loafing Atlanta posts, "Jimmy Carter wants to ban executions throughout the United States," by Max Blau.
The 89-year-old former commander-in-chief and Georgia governor spoke this morning at the National Symposium on the Modern Death Penalty in America, a daylong event at the Carter Center that featured numerous speakers and panels about capital punishment.
"We should abolish the death penalty here and throughout the world," Carter said at the event.
The American Bar Association, which hosted the symposium with the Carter Center, wants guarantees that the death penalty is used in a fair and effective manner. According to WABE, Carter pointed out that Southern states' higher execution rates have largely failed to curb homicides. He also called Georgia's burden of proof for mental disability, which has played a crucial role in death-row inmate Warren Lee Hill's controversial case, problematic.
I'll have some state-specific coverage of the ABA symposium in the next post.
Earlier coverage of President Carter's thoughts on capital punishment and a preview of the ABA program begins at the link.
You can get more information on the state assessments at the ABA's Death Penalty Due Process Project website.
Related posts are in the ABA category index.