Spring 2006

Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project Releases First State Report

The Georgia Death Penalty Assessment Report, the first in a series of sixteen state reports, was released by the Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project on Jan. 31, 2006. The report analyzed the extent to which the Georgia death penalty system comports with minimum standards of fairness and due process. Research was conducted by a state-based team of current or former judges, legislators, prosecutors, defense lawyers, bar association leaders, and law school professors.

The Georgia Team identified specific problems in the Georgia system including inadequate defense counsel at trial, a lack of defense counsel in state post-conviction proceedings, an inadequate proportionality review to ensure that the death penalty is being applied fairly across the state, inadequate pattern jury instructions on the role of mitigation evidence, racial disparities in capital sentencing, an inappropriately high burden of proof to prove mental retardation, and the over-reliance of felony murder crimes to justify capital prosecution. Because Georgia cannot ensure fairness and accuracy in every capital case, a majority of the team has concluded that the state should impose a moratorium on both executions and death penalty prosecutions until it can do so.

In addition, beyond the recommendations called for by the ABA, the Georgia Team recommended that Georgia sponsor a study to determine the role of geography in its death penalty system, establish a statewide clearinghouse to review prosecutorial decisions to seek death, and restrict death penalty cases to those where the defendant is found guilty of malice murder.

The Georgia Report received significant media attention upon its release. In addition to a front-page Sunday story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, articles about the report were written in newspapers throughout the state. Following the report’s release, a Georgia team member introduced relevant study and moratorium legislation in the state Senate that also received a lot of media attention. That coverage grew even stronger when former-first lady Rosalynn Carter endorsed the report and its findings. On Mar. 19, 2006, National Public Radio ran a story about the Georgia report and problems in the Georgia death penalty system. Georgia team leader Anne Emanuel and Project Chair James E. Coleman were quoted.

Advertisement