November 12, 2020

ABA asks President Trump for reprieves in three scheduled federal executions

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2020 — American Bar Association President Patricia Lee Refo sent a letter to President Donald Trump to express urgent concern over the government’s plan to carry out three federal executions between now and Dec. 10, in spite of an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide that can affect due process, a lawyers’ ability to advocate for their clients, and lawyers’ health and safety. The ABA has asked the president to reprieve these three scheduled executions until counsel can safely resume effective representation.

Orlando Hall is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 19. Due to the pandemic, Hall’s counsels have been unable to visit their client since his execution date was set, nor have they been able to investigate to prepare a clemency petition on his behalf.

Lisa Montgomery is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 8. Montgomery is severely mentally ill and her competency to be executed must be regularly monitored. Both of Montgomery’s attorneys began displaying symptoms of COVID-19, and as of Nov. 11, both have tested positive for the virus. Neither attorney is currently able to continue work on the case, meaning that Montgomery will also proceed to execution with no clemency petition pending.

Brandon Bernard is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 10. Counsel for Bernard was able to investigate before March 2020 and the pandemic restrictions and have submitted a clemency petition. But Bernard, only 18 years old at the time of the crime, has a compelling case for mercy that is nevertheless at risk of being overshadowed by the rush to execute all three prisoners in coming weeks amid the startling surge in COVID-19 cases.

While the American Bar Association does not take a position on the morality or legality of the death penalty itself, we are committed to ensuring that no death sentence is carried out without due process of law and zealous representation by counsel throughout every stage of the legal proceedings, including in applications for executive clemency.

Read the full letter here.

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