1,000 Faith Leaders Call for End to the Death Penalty

As the 1,000th execution approaches, over 1,000 religious leaders from more than a dozen religious faiths have issued an open letter calling for an end to capital punishment in the United States. The letter reaffirms the leaders’ moral opposition to the death penalty and reiterates the groups’ belief in the sacredness of life and the human capacity for change. The faith leaders called on public officials to reexamine capital punishment and to seek better ways to help communities heal from violence. The letter states:

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U.S. Catholic Bishops Issue Strong Statement on Ending U.S. Death Penalty

A statement approved during this week's meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) calls for an end to the death penalty in the United States and notes that the death penalty "contributes to a cycle of violence in our society that must be broken." The statement, drafted by the USCCB Domestic Policy Committee, is the first comprehensive statement focused on the death penalty by the Catholic bishops of the United States in 25 years. It is part of the wider "Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty." This program aims to improve victims' services, to educate Catholics and other citizens about the Church's teachings regarding the death penalty, and to advocate for an end to capital punishment in the U.S. The campaign and the proposed USCCB statement echo the position of the late Pope John Paul II on the death penalty. The statement notes:

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Expert Testimony Faults Death Penalty Deterrence Findings

In testimony before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary regarding proposed legislation to initiate a "foolproof" death penalty, Columbia Law School Professor Jeffrey Fagan (pictured) analyzed recent studies that claimed that capital punishment deters murders.  He stated that the studies "fall apart under close scrutiny." Fagan noted that the studies are fraught with technical and conceptual errors, including inappropriate methods of statistical analysis, failures to consider all relevant factors that drive murder rates, missing data on key variables in key states, weak to non-existent tests of concurrent effects of incarceration, and other deficiencies.

"A close reading of the new deterrence studies shows quite clearly that they fail to touch this scientific bar, let alone cross it," Fagan said as he told members of the committee that the recent deterrence studies fell well short of the demanding standards of social science research. (J. Fagan, Public Policy Choices on Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Critical Review of New Evidence, testimony before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary of the Massachusetts Legislature on House Bill 3934, July 14, 2005). Read the full text of Fagan's testimony.

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NEW RESOURCE: Dedication Scheduled for National Death Penalty Archive

The dedication of the National Death Penalty Archive at the State University of New York at Albany will take place on August 9, 2005.  Hugo Bedau of Tufts University will keynote the program, which will also feature William J. Bowers, Scott Christianson, David Kaczynski, and Michael Radelet. The Archive is a partnership between the Capital Punishment Research Initiative at the School of Criminal Justice and the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives at the University of Albany Libraries. This collection of historical materials is an excellent resource for scholars, students, and members of the public who are interested in the history of capital punishment in America and in the legal and political battles related to the death penalty. Among other resources, the collection includes The Hugo Adam Bedau Papers, The William J. Bowers/Capital Jury Project Collection, The Alvin Ford Collection, and The Joe Ingle/Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons Papers. It also includes a program of oral history interviews featuring prominent activists and professionals involved in death penalty work.

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DETERRENCE: Expert Testimony Discusses Recent Studies

Dr. Jeffrey Fagan, a professor at Columbia University Law School and a leading national expert on deterrence, testifed that recent studies claiming to show a deterrent effect to capital punishment are fraught with technical and conceptual errors. Fagan noted that a string of recent studies purporting to show that the death penalty can prevent murders use inappropriate methods of statistical analysis, fail to consider all the relevant factors that drive murder rates, and do not consider important variables in key states. During his testimony before committees of the New York Assembly gathering information regarding the future of the state's statute, Dr. Fagan stated:

These studies fail to reach the demanding standards of social science to make such strong claims, standards such as replication and basic comparisons with other scenarios.  Some simple examples and contrasts, including a careful analysis of the experience in New York State compared to others, lead to a rejection of the idea that either death sentences or executions deter murder.... A close reading of the new deterrence studies shows quite clearly that they fail to touch this scientific bar, let alone cross it.

For a full discussion of the problems identified by Dr. Fagan, read the text of his testimony in PDF format. ("Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Critical Review of New Evidence," Dr. Jeffrey Fagan, January 21, 2005). See also, Deterrence

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NEW RESOURCES: State Information Now More Readily Available

DPIC has added a new easy-to-use state database of death penalty information to its Web site. In addition, Richard Dieter's (DPIC's Executive Director) testimony before the New York State Assembly Standing Committees on Codes, Judiciary, and Correction regarding the costs of the death penalty is also available. The Committees are holding hearings on whether New York should re-instate the death penalty.

To access information on any state's death row population, the number of exonerations, executions, or clemencies, and to learn facts about the state's history of the death penalty, and more: Click Here. For the testimony on costs: Read the PDF File of Mr. Dieter's testimony

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