June 10, 2002
Senator Orrin Hatch
104 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Hatch,
On behalf of almost 2,000 ACLU members in Utah, I write to urge you to attend a hearing in the Constitution sub-committee of the Judiciary Committee on June 12 at 10:00 am to discuss reducing the risk of executing the innocent and a recent report issued by the state of Illinois.
Two years ago, the Republican Governor of Illinois enacted a moratorium on executions in his state after 13 people who had been sentenced to death were released after review of their cases. Now, in an April 15 announcement, the State Commission that he empanelled has issued a report calling for 85 reforms in the administration of the death penalty. Among its many suggestions, the Commission--that was comprised of both opponents and advocates of the death penalty-- called for sweeping changes that include, banning the execution of people with mental retardation, reducing the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty and improving the mechanism for appointing competent attorneys in death penalty cases.
Nationwide, events over the past year demonstrate that our system of capital punishment has fundamental flaws that must be addressed. For example, a week prior to the Illinois report, the 100th innocent person sentenced to death was released. Dozens of death sentences in Oklahoma based on the false testimony of a state expert are now under federal investigation and the questionable racial practices by prosecutors are casting shadows of doubt over death sentences in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas.
Again, I urge you to attend the hearing in the Constitution Sub-committee of Judiciary Committee on June 12 at 10 am. Clearly, given the serious concerns about fairness and accuracy in the imposition of the death penalty, there should be a moratorium and a thorough study of its use. Capital punishment is literally a matter of life or death. The time for Congress to act is now.
Thank you for your consideration and please call me at (801) 521-9862 ext 100 if you have any questions about our position.