Latest ACLU Advertisement Highlights Execution of Innocent Prisoners on Death Row

June 16, 2000 12:00 am

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NEW YORK–In the midst of mounting evidence that America’s system of capital punishment is seriously flawed, the latest American Civil Liberties Union advertisement highlights the price of this injustice: the execution of innocent prisoners.

The full-page advertisement, scheduled to run in the June 18 issue of the Sunday New York Times Magazine and in the June 12 issue of The New Yorker, features a gruesome photograph of a blindfolded man strapped into an electric chair.


“Thanks to modern science, 17 innocent people have been removed from death row,” the headline reads in bold type. “Thanks to modern politics, 23 innocent people have been removed from the living.”

The “death row” advertisement is the second installment in the ACLU’s new national advertising campaign. The first advertisement, which ran in the Sunday Times and the New Yorker on June 4 and 5, respectively, used photographs of American icons Martin Luther King, Jr. and mass murderer Charles Manson to make a provocative point about racial profiling in law enforcement.

“The whole system of state-sanctioned executions is tainted with unfairness, injustice, and racism,” said Ira Glasser, Executive Director of the ACLU. “As the advertisement states, even those who support capital punishment are finding it increasingly difficult to endorse it in its current form.”

Staunch law-and-order conservatives such as Oliver North, Pat Robertson and George Will, Glasser noted, recently sounding alarms about the many faults in our capital punishment system.

Although a majority of Americans still support capital punishment, the number is down to 66 percent, from a high of 80 percent in 1994. And fully 92 percent support making DNA testing available to any death row inmate who did not previously have that option.

In a special “Focus on Fairness” Web site feature running this week, the ACLU reviews the latest developments in the death penalty debate, including a new landmark study showing that two out of three capital convictions were overturned on appeal. The primary causes were errors by incompetent defense lawyers and police officers and prosecutors who withheld evidence.

The issue is also receiving attention in our nation’s capital: this year, legislators introduced the “Innocence Protection Act,” a bill that addresses mistaken executions and would provide new safeguards in capital cases.

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