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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

The Constitution Project's Death Penalty Initiative Releases "Mandatory Justice: The Death Penalty Revisited"

"[Yesterday], the members of the Constitution Project’s bipartisan, blue-ribbon Death Penalty Initiative released an updated set of guiding principles for reform of death penalty systems in the United States.  [The Constitution Project is a "bipartisan nonprofit organization that seeks consensus on controversial legal and constitutional issues through activism and scholarship."] Timed to correspond with an important death penalty hearing in the Senate Judiciary Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights Subcommittee, Mandatory Justice: The Death Penalty Revisited examines problems and solutions relevant to all capital punishment systems in the United States. 

“We all have different perspectives on the death penalty and the criminal justice system, but Mandatory Justice lays out the basic principles that simply must be part of any fair and accurate death penalty system,” said the Honorable Gerald Kogan, co-chair of the Death Penalty Initiative.  “Given the great impact of these issues, both on our legal system and in the lives of so many Americans, the committee found it critical to identify both specific weaknesses and specific solutions relevant to any capital punishment system.  The Constitution Project has once again drawn a bipartisan constitutional road map for us to follow.”

Justice Kogan is a former Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court and the former Chief Prosecutor, Homicide and Capital Crimes Division, of Dade County, Florida.  He co-chairs the Death Penalty Initiative committee with the Honorable Charles F. Baird, a former judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals; and Beth A. Wilkinson, Esq., who was a prosecutor in the Oklahoma City bombing case.  They have ably led the committee – which comprises current and former FBI officials, state attorneys general, religious leaders, victims of crime, and academics in addition to other experts and community leaders – through a multi-year inquiry into a topic of critical importance in American society.

The death penalty has received significant attention in recent months and years as problems with accuracy and fairness have surfaced repeatedly.  New biological testing methods have exonerated many people previously convicted of capital crimes; serious mistakes and even misconduct in crime labs have called trial results into question; and continued problems with the quality of and resources for defense services plague many state systems. 

In Mandatory Justice: The Death Penalty Revisited, the Death Penalty Initiative committee moves beyond philosophical differences about the death penalty itself, instead identifying specific improvements that can address some of these problems and ultimately serve all stakeholders in the system.  The Constitution Project, renowned for its ability to move beyond politics and find broad political consensus on some of the most complicated constitutional and policy questions facing our nation today, once again provides a common-sense road map for reform. 

The Constitution Project’s Death Penalty Initiative was established in 2000...In addition to the co-chairs, the Initiative is guided by a professionally and ideologically diverse committee of criminal justice experts, including CrimProfs Margaret Paris of Oregon Law; Professor Andrew E. Taslitz of the Howard Law; and David I. Bruck of Washington and Lee, who directs the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse.

The full text of Mandatory Justice: The Death Penalty Revisited is available at www.constitutionproject.org.  [Mark Godsey]

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