ACLU Urges Congress to Ensure Competent Counsel in Death Penalty Cases; Says Tragic Examples Demonstrate Flaws in Current System
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON — Citing numerous examples of incompetent counsel in recent death penalty cases and inequities in the imposition of capital punishment in America, the American Civil Liberties Union called upon Congress today to ensure effective legal representation for all defendants facing possible execution.
“When a life is in the balance – no matter what the alleged crime – justice demands that the most vigorous and effective legal defense be mounted,” said Rachel King, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Our current system cannot guarantee this and must be changed.”
The ACLU’s comments come as the Senate Judiciary Committee meets today for a hearing on ensuring competent counsel for defendants in death penalty cases.
The ACLU said that tragic examples of incompetent counsel argue for Congressional intervention. They include:
“Competent counsel, especially in a capital case, is a right and an absolute necessity.” King said. “Unfortunately, our current system stacks the deck against those without the means for a privately funded defense. If your pockets aren’t deep enough for a Cochran or a Dershowitz or another celebrity lawyer then you’ve got a much better shot at finding yourself behind death row bars and praying for that eleventh-hour reprieve.”
Comprehensive Information on the Death Penalty in America can be found at: http://archive.aclu.org/death-penalty
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.