Professor Anthony Amsterdam Delivers Speech at Southern Center of Human Rights Event

Leading attorney, law professor, and advocate Anthony Amsterdam was honored by the Southern Center for Human Rights with the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award in Washington, DC on October 2. Professor Amsterdam conducts the Capital Defender Clinic at New York University Law School and is recognized for his four decades of prominent work in cases ranging from death penalty defense to claims of free speech and the press, privacy, and equality of opportunity for racial minorities and the poor.

Professor Amsterdam’s remarks addressed those who “have a perspective on life and death that has not been warped all out of shape by daily exposure to the documents that States’ lawyers file in capital cases, proceedings like those in Troy Davis’ case and Mendellin’s,” commenting that the cases must seem “bizarre” and “inexplicable.” 

He continued, “Why, you may ask, are we even debating whether an execution should be delayed for a few weeks or months until significant questions can be resolved that may prove the death judgment to be factually or legally erroneous?  How can lawyers for any American government that has a Due Process clause in its constitution contest a stay in such a case?”  He utilized his expertise and knowledge to answer those questions and more while addressing capital punishment.  The complete text of the speech may be found here.

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European Union Reasserts Its Opposition to the Death Penalty in All Countries and All Cases

On June 16, 2008, the Council of the European Union (EU) meeting in Luxembourg released a statement on General Affairs and External Relations. The document contained a restatement of its 1998 Human Rights Guideline on the death penalty. The Council, consisting of almost all Foreign Ministers in the EU, stated that it “reaffirms that working towards universal abolition of the death penalty constitutes an integral objective of the EU’s human rights policy.” The Council reasserted the “opposition of the European Union to the death penalty in all cases and in all circumstances. The abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights.”

The Council commended the “considerable progress [that] has been made worldwide towards the abolition of the death penalty” in the past 10 years. They added, “The adoption by the UN General Assembly last year of a cross-regional initiative calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty is a significant achievement in this regard. At the same time, the Council, “regrets that a number of States still maintain the death penalty. We call on all these states to abolish the death penalty; if necessary with the immediate establishment of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, with a view to abolishing it.”

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Senate Judiciary Committee Hears Testimony on Adequacy of Counsel in Death Penalty Cases

On April 8, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on "The Adequacy of Representation in Capital Cases." Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) presided over the session of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, which heard testimony from a variety of experts including Michael Greco, former President of the American Bar Association, Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, the Honorable Carolyn Temin of the Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania, and Donald Verilli, a partner at Jenner & Block. Copies of the testimony given, statements from members of the Judiciary Committee, and a Webcast of the proceedings are available here.

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