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Tell President Obama to End the Federal Death Penalty

Follow this link to tell President Obama that he should issue an executive order to establish a moratorium on federal executions and direct the Justice Department to establish new rules to protect innocent people from execution, for instance by having the federal government not seek the death penalty in any prosecutions during his term in office and by using federal money to better fund state-level innocence protection programs. You can also give him your other ideas on reforming the criminal justice system.

The page linked to above on Obama's new transition website invites people to "tell us your ideas and help us solve the biggest challenges facing our country."

"Since the federal government got back into the death penalty business in 1988, attorneys general have authorized 420 prosecutions, according to statistics kept by the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project: 180 during the 1990s, an average of 18 per year, and 240 since 2000, an average of 40 per year, mostly attributable to the Bush administration. "Of the 420 authorized prosecutions, 162 actually reached trial and sentencing. Juries imposed 105 life sentences and 57 death sentences. Since 2001, the beginning of the Bush administration, there have been 32 federal defendants sentenced to death ." (Marcia Coyle, National Law Journal, April 30, 2007).

Minorities Dominate Federal Death Penalty Prosecutions
Since 1988, the federal government has authorized seeking the death penalty against 382 defendants. Of the 382 approved prosecutions, 278 (73%) were against minority defendants. Of these defendants, 104 have been white, 64 Hispanic, 16 Asian/Indian/Pacific Islander, 3 Arab and 195 African American. Of the 44 inmates currently on federal death row, 26 (59%) are members of a minority group. (Source: Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project (June 28, 2006)).

More information on the Federal Death Penalty

A coalition of more than 20 organizations and individuals, coordinated by the Constitution Project, have announced the publication of a catalogue of key criminal justice issues and policy recommendations for the next administration and congress. Visit their website here.

Their recommendations include steps to reform the federal death penalty. They recommend that Obama "stay all federal executions and place a moratorium on federal capital charges pending an independent study of the death penalty system that examines racial disparities, prejudicial errors, adequacy of legal representation, and other inequities in capital prosecutions."

The coalition says: "Since 1988, approximately 73% of all approved capital prosecutions have been against defendants of color, and white federal defendants are almost twice as likely as defendants of color to have the death penalty reduced to life sentences through plea bargains. The U.S. Department of Justice's own study reveals that over 40% of all requests for capital prosecutions came from only 5 of the 94 federal districts. The failure to address this pervasively unequal application of the death penalty sends an unacceptable message that the value of a defendant's life falls along racial lines".


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