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Putting Death on Hold

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October 30, 2007

An unofficial moratorium on executions is in effect while the nation waits for the Supreme Court decision in Baze v. Rees. It’s a good time to re-examine just how ineffective, unfair and cruel the death penalty is, as ACLU Capitol Punishment Project Director John Holdridge points out in an op-ed in the Austin American-Statesmen:

Capital punishment is a failed government program and a colossal stain on our criminal justice system. The administration of capital punishment in this country is fraught with error. Since 1973, more than 123 innocent death-row inmates have been exonerated; in addition, eight men have been executed even though there is a very good chance they were innocent. Moreover, despite popular myths, DNA testing cannot ensure that only the guilty are executed because DNA evidence is available in only 10 percent of murder cases.

The decision in the Baze case will determine the constitutionality of the administration of the three-drug lethal injection cocktail, the preferred method of execution among 37 of the 38 death penalty states. Today, there’s a possibility that the Supreme Court will temporarily halt all executions using this method, effectively ending the constant stream of last-minute appeals by death row inmates scheduled to die before a Baze decision is reached.

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