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Former First Lady Issues Statement on Death Penalty, Speaks to ABA Conference

ATLANTA, GA.... Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter today issued the following statement in conjunction with a luncheon speech at The Carter Center before lawyers, judges, and policymakers gathered for the American Bar Association (ABA) conference "Call To Action: A Moratorium on Executions."

"I am morally and spiritually opposed to the death penalty. Even for those who do not share my belief, the questions that have been raised about the unfairness of the system, the conviction of the innocent, poor quality of legal representation, racial discrimination, and the imposition of the death penalty on mentally ill or mentally retarded people and even children clearly call for a moratorium in order to have a thorough examination of these issues.

I commend and support the American Bar Association, an organization that does not take a position on the death penalty, in calling for a federal and state moratorium on executions."

In her remarks before the ABA, Mrs. Carter said the death penalty "is an issue I feel strongly about and one that has bothered me for a very long time." She also said that she believes the death penalty is "an obvious violation of basic human rights." In the past, Mrs. Carter has selectively advocated for clemency for death row inmates who are mentally ill or juveniles. The nonprofit Carter Center has organized several meetings in recent years to study issues and rulings associated with the death penalty, and in 1996, Mrs. Carter presented her concerns to Chief Justice Robert Benham of the Georgia Supreme Court.

Since 1963, the federal government has not put anyone to death. In the last three months, two federal executions have been scheduled, David Paul Hammer on Nov. 15, 2000, and Juan Raul Garza on Dec. 12, 2000. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice recently issued a report documenting clear geographic and racial disparity in administration of the death penalty in the United States.


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