UN v. USA re: Death Penalty

On May 26, the United Nations released a report by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, which highlights, among other things, some of the major flaws in the US judicial system related to the death penalty.  The report focuses particularly on the sates of Texas and Alabama, where the research of the Special Rapporteur was concentrated. 

The report rightfully notes that the current judicial system in those two states is significantly flawed as it leaves room for the wrongful conviction and execution of innocent people, something that was confirmed even by interviews with public officials.  In that respect, the author provides a detailed review of the judicial failings related to the death penalty.  He notes that there are legal limitations preventing inmates from access to DNA tests once they have already been convicted.  In addition, the defense attorneys appointed to death penalty cases often receive compensation far lower than what is necessary to construct an adequate defense.  Appointed counsel also frequently have continuing professional relationships with the judges before whom they appear, which can be the source of “structural disincentives for vigorous capital defense.”  The access of defendants to federal habeas corpus proceedings, the report asserts, is also too limited. 

At the same time, finality in death penalty cases is often granted undue emphasis at the expense of a careful examination of the potential evidence related to innocence claims.  The author notes that in Alabama, “officials would rather deny (the execution of innocent people) than confront criminal justice system flaws.” Unfortunately, this is true not only in Alabama, as has become evident in the case of Troy Davis, who may soon face his fourth execution date in two years, despite the fact that the case against him was build predominantly on the testimony of nine witnesses, seven of whom have recanted their statements (and have alleged that they were coerced by authorities) since the time of Troy’s conviction.  However, despite opposition from human rights activists across the world, Troy has remained on death row for 18 years and has not yet received a hearing on the details of his case that have emerged since the time of his conviction.  Moreover, the failure of the judicial system to hear the evidence in support of Troy’s innocence means that the person truly responsible for the murder of which Troy was convicted, has not yet faced any legal consequences for his action.  This danger was also highlighted in the UN report, according to which “wrongful convictions mean that true criminals remain at large.” 

The UN report also points to the drawbacks in the electoral system for appointing judges in Texas and Alabama, which highly politicizes death penalty cases.  In fact, the author cites statistics suggesting that the likelihood of a death penalty sentence is directly correlated with the imminence of judicial elections or with the lobbying efforts of groups that are supporters of capital punishment.  He also pinpoints the particular problems with judicial elections in Alabama, where jury decisions can be overruled by elected judges, and where nine out of ten cases in which a judge overrode a jury decision resulted in a death sentence.  Finally, the report uncovers the existence of racial bias behind the imposition of the death penalty across the country, something that is confirmed by the research of Amnesty International USA.

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

12 thoughts on “UN v. USA re: Death Penalty

  1. I understand your concerns, but Troy Davis is in GEORGIA, not Alabama! Why do you keep calling Georgia "Alabama"?!

  2. Sorry about that. I think the blog meant that "This is true not only in Alabama, but it has also become evident in the case of Troy Davis of Georgia". I'm sorry I can't put in italics or underlines in "of Georgia", but I hope you will forgive me.

  3. I understand your concerns, but Troy Davis is in GEORGIA, not Alabama! Why do you keep calling Georgia “Alabama”?!

  4. Sorry about that. I think the blog meant that “This is true not only in Alabama, but it has also become evident in the case of Troy Davis of Georgia”. I’m sorry I can’t put in italics or underlines in “of Georgia”, but I hope you will forgive me.

  5. The USA should be sanctioned in the UN for their outrageous behaviour as regards the death penalty (and so many other issues)! It is a shame to be travelling around the world speaking about human rights when one still executes, tortures, arbitrarily detains etc.

  6. Alabama now leads the nation in doling out death sentences in spite of the UN report and the ABA study on death penalty in the states (October 29, 2007), which also found serious flaws in the Alabama system. Attorney General Troy King says he "has not studied the report," and Governor Bob Riley says he is in office to "uphold the law." Mr. King refused my challenge to a debate on the issues. His office said he does not "apply" the death penalty and displaces the blame to the Department of Corrections and the Supreme Court, a major and misleading "cop-out." Furthermore, the DOC and the AG office refuse to release comparative cost data, saying "we don't keep track of that." The truth of the matter is hidden in the bowels of Alabama's justice system and the "principalities and powers" hold the key. But the aren't talking.

  7. The USA should be sanctioned in the UN for their outrageous behaviour as regards the death penalty (and so many other issues)! It is a shame to be travelling around the world speaking about human rights when one still executes, tortures, arbitrarily detains etc.

  8. Alabama now leads the nation in doling out death sentences in spite of the UN report and the ABA study on death penalty in the states (October 29, 2007), which also found serious flaws in the Alabama system. Attorney General Troy King says he “has not studied the report,” and Governor Bob Riley says he is in office to “uphold the law.” Mr. King refused my challenge to a debate on the issues. His office said he does not “apply” the death penalty and displaces the blame to the Department of Corrections and the Supreme Court, a major and misleading “cop-out.” Furthermore, the DOC and the AG office refuse to release comparative cost data, saying “we don’t keep track of that.” The truth of the matter is hidden in the bowels of Alabama’s justice system and the “principalities and powers” hold the key. But the aren’t talking.

  9. Well, the article is really the freshest on this notable topic. I harmonize with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your incoming updates. Just saying thanks will not just be enough, for the fantasti c clarity in your writing. I will right away grab your rss feed to stay abreast of any updates. Solid work and much success in your business efforts!

  10. Well, the article is really the freshest on this notable topic. I harmonize with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your incoming updates. Just saying thanks will not just be enough, for the fantasti c clarity in your writing. I will right away grab your rss feed to stay abreast of any updates. Solid work and much success in your business efforts!