Clay Endorses Bill to Abolish Federal Death Penalty
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Washington, DC - United States Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay has joined dozens of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to support a bill to abolish the federal death penalty.
"While I believe in justice for victims of crime, I want to abolish the death penalty because it does not achieve justice for victims of crime and it does not deter criminals. Too many people on death row have been proven to be innocent of the crimes that landed them there, " Rep. Clay said. "And their innocence was not discovered through the normal justice process but during investigations sponsored by organizations outside the police, prosecutors and the courts. Our system of justice is seriously flawed. It should be unheard of for innocent people to spend years on death row for crimes they did not commit. Each time an innocent person is executed then the real murderer remains unpunished. We must not allow this to continue. That is why I cosponsored the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act. Public policy must allow for the limitations of the our justice system."
The bill, authored by Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), was introduced in the House on Dec. 14. The Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2005, currently co-sponsored by 39 Members of Congress, will put an immediate halt to executions and forbid the imposition of the death penalty as a sentence for violations of federal law.
"The death penalty is not an effective deterrent," stated Kucinich. "Homicide rates in states with the death penalty are no lower than rates in abolitionist states. Of the twelve states without the death penalty, ten have murder rates below the national average."
Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 122 men and women have been released from death row due to evidence of innocence. In addition, an audit released in late 2003 found that death penalty cases in Kansas cost significantly more than comparable non-death penalty incarcerations.
The median cost for a death penalty case was $1.26 million while the median cost for a non-death penalty case was $740,000. Imposition of the death penalty is also racially and economically biased.
"I strongly believe that violent offenders must be severely punished and prevented from committing future crimes," continued Kucinich. "However, capital punishment is not the answer. The death penalty is not a deterrent, allows innocent people to be executed, and marginalizes the United States' in the fight for human rights in the international community."
Recently, Rep. Clay joined many others in calling for the reinvestigation of the case of St. Louisan Larry Griffin who was executed 10 years ago for what is now believed to be a murder he did not commit.
"I am very troubled by this case. I believe that an innocent man has been executed for this murder, while those truly responsible for the crime have not been brought to justice," stated Congressman Clay.
Griffin was put to death on the basis of testimony by a single eyewitness. A new investigation, under the auspices of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, with the assistance of the New York office of the law firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, has found evidence that he may have been innocent.
The recent Dec. 13, 2005 execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams in California, as well as the Oct. 26 Missouri execution of Marlin Gray in the Chain of Rocks murder case (with another execution in that case pending) all have focused attention on state-sponsored executions that may be the result of alleged judicial misconduct and the possible innocence of those sentenced to death.
"While these cases are not federal death penalty cases, I believe the federal government must exert leadership on this issue to not only saves lives, but to urge states to suspend executions as part of a justice system that we know is broken," Clay said.
Joining Rep. Clay and Kucinich on the bill are Reps. Neil Abercrombie, Michael Capuano, Emanuel Cleaver, John Conyers, Elijah Cummings, Danny Davis, William Delahunt, Sam Farr, Bob Filner, Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierrez, Alcee Hastings, Maurice Hinchey, Michael Honda, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Dale Kildee, Carolyn Kilpatrick, James Langevin, Barbara Lee, John Lewis, James McGovern, Cynthia McKinney, Edward Markey, Gregory Meeks, Gwen Moore, James Oberstar, John Olver, Major Owens, Charles Rangel, Bobby Rush, Jose Serrano, Pete Stark, Edolphus Towns, Nydia Velazquez, Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, Melvin Watt, and Lynn Woolsey.