Report Denounces Death Penalty in Virginia as Capricious, Unbalanced and Racially Biased

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
April 7, 2000 12:00 am

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RICHMOND — A coalition of civil rights, legal, and religious organizations joined the ACLU of Virginia today to issue a report faulting every significant aspect of the death penalty in the Commonwealth.

Entitled Unequal, Unfair and Irreversible: The Death Penalty in Virginia, the 48-page report examines the state’s legal procedures, the role of lawyers and judges, and effects of racial bias on the implementation of the death penalty in Virginia.

“This report casts a dark shadow over the death penalty in Virginia,” said Kent Willis, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. “The closer we examined the system, the more our assumptions about how justice is suppose to work unraveled.

“We found that caprice, geography and race strongly influence the initial decision whether or not to accuse someone of a capital crime,” Willis added. “We found that prosecutors have huge advantages in resources and expertise over defense counsel, and that procedural rules and a hostile judiciary render the appeals process a near waste of time for most death row inmates.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP, the Office of Justice and Peace of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginians for Alternative to the Death Penalty, and the Virginia College of Criminal Defense Attorneys (see attached statement??do we have it?) have endorsed the report.

The report will be distributed in the next several weeks to libraries, schools, elected officials, and religious and civil organizations around the state to encourage them to participate in efforts to initiate a moratorium on executions in Virginia.

“This is the most extensive study of the death penalty ever undertaken in Virginia, but even it only scratches the surface,” Willis said. “We hope it will be a springboard for declaring a moratorium on executions in Virginia and for further study.”

The full report is available for download at:

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