June 30, 2017

Alabama Death Penalty

ABA President Linda A. Klein expressed the association’s opposition last month to legislation in the Alabama House and Senate that she said could lead to an increased risk of executing an innocent person. The legislation, introduced as H.B. 260 and S.B. 187, was signed into law by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on May 26. Klein’s letter, sent May 12 to the leadership in the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives, stressed that the legislation, known as the Fair Justice Act, is unlikely to achieve its stated goal of streamlining justice and would instead diminish the ability of counsel to provide effective representation and the capacity of courts to deliberate in order to make fair and responsible determinations. The new law, in an effort to speed up the post-conviction process, creates a unitary process where the direct appeals and post-conviction processes are concurrent. Pointing out that the legislation will limit the investigative time for capital cases to one year, Klein emphasized that adequate time and meaningful investigations are essential to ensure justice, and such investigations can take several years. “While the ABA respects the importance of finality and judicial efficiency, quicker resolution of cases where a life is at stake should not take priority over ensuring fundamental fairness and accuracy of those convictions,” Klein said. Although the ABA takes no position for or against the death penalty itself, the association ─ which include prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges ─ has long been committed to ensuring that every jurisdiction that imposes capital punishment implements policies and procedures that ensure that death penalty cases are administered fairly, impartially and in accordance with due process.

 

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