American Bar Association study critical of funding for defense attorneys in capital cases, citing confidence issues with the process in place in the states under review. For more information, read the press release from the American Bar Association.
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The ABA report highlights many of the issues that social scientists have been studying for years. The evidence clearly suggests that race, socioeconomic status, and the quality of legal counsel are factors that play an important role in death penalty outcomes.
The ABA report also notes the problems with witness identification, mistakes made in crime labs, the lack of proportionality review, and problems with instructions given to jurors during the guilt and penalty phases of capital trials. Defense funding for indigent defendants is also a significant problem. While capital sentences cost 2-5 times more than non-capital sentences, the evidence clearly suggests that not enough money is being invested in the system to produce reliable results.
To sustain the death penalty in light of the mass of evidence that it does not achieve the legitimate goals of punishment seems both irresponsible and contemptible. Public support is decreasing, and we are spending funds that could be redirected to crime control policies that have shown promise. Given the problems noted by the American Bar Association and elsewhere, can we as a society continue to judge the quality of justice in other countries?