News Release

Death Penalty

On Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner commuted the sentence of Robin Lovitt to life in prison; Warner stated that evidence had been destroyed in violation of state law. The state of North Carolina is currently scheduled to execute Kenneth Lee Boyd this Friday, which would make him the 1,000th person executed since the U.S. reinstated the death penalty. Stanley Tookie Williams, the founder of the Crips gang, is scheduled to be executed in California on Dec. 13; he has become an anti-gang activist and author.

BRYAN STEVENSON
Executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, Stevenson said today: “What best defines capital punishment in America is error. Criminal justice in this country is shockingly tolerant of mistakes that reveal how our system treats you much better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent. As we experience the 1,000th execution, we should recognize that thousands more people have been sentenced to death in America during the same time period only to have their death sentences declared invalid because the condemned was innocent, wrongly convicted or illegally sentenced.

“The death penalty in this country is a perverse monument to inequality, to how some lives matter and others do not. It is a violent example of how we protect and value the privileged and abandon and devalue the poor. It’s the symbol elected officials hold up to strengthen their tough-on-crime reputations while distracting us from the causes of violent crime. It is also the symbol that most dramatically exposes how race, poverty and disability conspire to condemn many people accused in the criminal justice system.

“Presumptions of guilt nourished by fear, anger and indifference to fairness are what yields a death sentence in most cases. The tragic number of innocent people wrongly condemned, the scores of illegal convictions and sentences, the unequal treatment of the poor and racial minorities have made capital punishment a question that is not about whether some people deserve to die for the crimes they’ve committed. Rather, the death penalty in America is about whether local governments with flawed, inaccurate, biased and error-plagued systems of justice deserve to kill.”
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THOMAS RUFFIN
Former board member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, Ruffin is a D.C.-based attorney. He said today: “The number of questions raised about the death penalty makes it untenable.”

RICHARD DIETER
Executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, Dieter said today: “The 1,000th execution is a significant event in the nation’s 30-year experiment with capital punishment, but it is not indicative of an expanding or strongly-endorsed use of capital punishment. To the contrary, there is a wealth of evidence that the country is pulling back from the death penalty. The national trend away from the death penalty is evidenced by a 50 percent decline in the annual number of death sentences since the late 1990s. In addition, executions are down by 40 percent since 1999, and the size of death row has also decreased every year since 2001. According to the latest Gallup Poll, 64 percent of Americans support the death penalty, a sharp decline from the 80 percent support registered in 1994.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167