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This year marks the tenth anniversary of the ABA's call for a moratorium on the death penalty. So this year is perhaps as good a time as any to take a serious look at the last thirty years since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia.
Much more needs to be done to effectively monitor homicide cases, ensuring only the worst offenders are being sentenced to death. Given the finality of this punishment, even infrequent mistakes in the application of the death penalty will receive widespread coverage and call into question the overall fairness of the system.
In 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court held that execution of people with mental retardation violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. It is important to consider whether some of the same concerns underlying Atkins might apply to people with other types of impaired mental conditions.
In 2006, the thirteen-member Death Penalty Study Commission was created to examine all aspects of New Jersey's death penalty. Those on the commission came from different places with different experiences, but all agreed the death penalty in New Jersey should be replaced by life without parole.
Over the past thirty years, the ABA has become increasingly concerned that capital jurisdictions too often provide neither fairness nor accuracy in the administration of the death penalty. After studying eight states that retain the death penalty, the ABA moratorium project concludes that each system has serious problems.
Lawyers and bar associations cannot do much to eliminate the arbitrariness of the application of capital punishment, but they can act to require competence and ethical behavior of all lawyers involved in capital cases
Many human rights organizations and intergovernmental organizations, such as the European Union, see the death penalty as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time and have taken an active role in persuading countries to halt executions.
A newfound willingness by judges and prosecutors in several states to revisit old capital cases has led to many well-publicized exonerations of death row inmates. As a result, the U.S. Supreme Court, which in large measure has the final say on whether and to what extent capital punishment may be used, has begun to pay more attention to death penalty procedures.
Sam Millsap began his journey as a supporter of the death penalty and has since become one of the country's most powerful advocates for abolition.
Professor Amsterdam is recognized as a hero for his extraordinary legal career, including his over forty years of leadership, both in front and behind the scenes and for his litigation strategy that resulted in the United States being free from executions from 1967 to 1977.