Death Penalty

Capital punishment should require unanimity and transparency, say ABA policymakers

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Death penalty

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The ABA called for caution when administering capital punishment with two resolutions passed at Monday’s House of Delegates meeting.

Resolution 108A calls for all governments that use the death penalty—including the U.S. military—to require a unanimous jury before imposing the death penalty. Delegate Walter H. White Jr. of McGuireWoods in London—who received the Robert F. Drinan Award last week from the Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities—noted Florida, Alabama and Delaware require majorities rather than unanimity.

“It is the view of IRR that a majority decision is not consistent with ABA policy,” he said.

Resolution 108B calls for “open and transparent” disclosure of execution protocols, public comment on any new such protocols and disclosure of all relevant information.

Delegate Bob Weinberg of the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., speaking in support of the resolution, noted that adopting it would permit the ABA to file an amicus brief in the pending U.S. Supreme Court case Glossip v. Gross. In that case, several death penalty defendants from Oklahoma are challenging that state’s use of midazolam in lethal injections.

In recent years, the drugs used for lethal injections have become a point of attack by opponents of the death penalty. Some manufacturers have declined to sell their drugs to states, and substitute drugs have been criticized as inhumane. The Supreme Court took Glossip after problems with the executions of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, Dennis McGuire in Ohio and Joseph Wood in Arizona, all drew public attention to the issue.

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