Despite great philosophical differences, supporters and opponents of the death penalty agree on one basic fact: the government should never put an innocent person to death.
In recent years, however, numerous studies have found that one in seven people sent to death row are later proven innocent. And in one disturbing recent case, a prisoner was 48 hours from execution when he was proven innocent. In the last 25 years, 102 innocent people have been released from death row.
Given this frightening history -- and with evidence mounting that more and more innocent people are sent to death row each year -- a nationwide movement has sprung up calling for a moratorium on executions. Even hard-fast supporters of the death penalty like Republican Gov. George Ryan of Illinois have recognized that there are serious flaws in the death penalty system that must be studied and resolved. That's why he stopped all executions in Illinois until the state can examine why more death row inmates have been found innocent and released from prison than executed since the reinstatement of the state's death penalty in 1977.
Governor Ryan is not the only one who sees something terribly wrong with the capital punishment system. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), and Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) have been working on the "Innocence Protection Act", a bill that would provide new safeguards in capital cases. In the 107th Congress, two-hundred thirty-four Representatives and 25 Senators cosponsored the House and Senate bills respectively. This bill will be re-introduced in the 108th Congress. Urge your Members of Congress to become sponsors. It is time to stop the talking, pass the legislation, and take action to end the execution of innocent people.
Act Now for Fairness:
Support the "Innocence Protection Act"
Antiquated legal procedures and resistance from prosecutors have limited the promise of new investigative technologies like DNA testing.
The "Innocence Protection Act" would allow prisoners on death row to request DNA testing on evidence from their case that is still in the government's possession.
Many states and the federal government have drastically slashed funding to attorneys appointed to represent defendants in death penalty cases.
The "Innocence Protection Act" would help insure that everyone on death row has access to a professional and experienced lawyer thus helping eliminate horror stories involving lawyers who have fallen asleep during the trail, shown up in the courtroom drunk, never met with their clients or have extremely limited legal experience.
Judges are not now required to inform juries that they can sentence a defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Recognizing the number of people exonerated of crimes after their conviction, The "Innocence Protection Act" would encourage states to make sure that juries are aware of all their sentencing options.