Civil Rights, Religious Groups Call on Clinton to Declare Moratorium on Federal Executions

December 4, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Citing questions about racial disparities in the federal death penalty system, prominent civil rights and religious organizations today called on President Clinton to declare a moratorium on federal executions.

Saying that they may not agree on whether the death penalty is a proper punishment, 24 civil rights and religious organizations sent a letter to President Clinton in which they said that they “are united in our belief that no federal execution should proceed until the nation is assured that the federal death penalty is neither biased nor arbitrary in its application.”

The organizations said they were basing their concerns on a recent Department of Justice survey that found that whether the federal system sends people to death row appears related to the color of their skin or the federal district in which they were prosecuted.

The letter comes as the first federal execution since 1963 approaches. On December 12, Juan Raul Garza is scheduled to be put to death. Twenty other federal prisoners sit on death row.

“We believe that these executions should not proceed at this time, when nagging questions about the federal death penalty system have been raised but are still unanswered,” the letter to President Clinton said.

Organizations that signed the letter include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization for Women, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

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