ABA Report Calls for Georgia Death Penalty Moratorium



ABA REPORT CALLS FOR GEORGIA DEATH PENALTY MORATORIUM


A new report by the American Bar Association Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project found that Georgia's death penalty fails to meet 43 ABA standards for improving the fairness and accuracy of the death penalty. The assessment team assembled in Georgia by the ABA was so troubled by its findings that it called for a moratorium on not only executions but also the prosecution of death penalty cases.

The 21-member assessment team urged the state to study a variety of problems and made a series of recommendations to address these issues. Among the team's most significant recommendations were the following:

INADEQUATE FUNDING FOR DEFENSE COUNSEL

Georgia should ensure that all defendants receive competent counsel and provide the necessary funding for the full cost of high quality legal representation by the defense team and access to selected experts.

LACK OF DEFENSE COUNSEL FOR STATE HABEAS

Georgia does not appoint counsel for state habeas proceedings, and Georgia is one of only two states to not provide indigent capital defendants with attorneys at this stage. To help ensure that all capital defendants receive adequate representation, Georgia should provide them with at least two attorneys in state habeas proceedings.



RACIAL DISPARITIES IN CAPITAL SENTENCING

Among all homicides with known suspects, those suspected of killing whites are 4.56 times as likely to be sentenced to death as those who are suspected of killing blacks. Georgia should fully investigate and evaluate the racial disparities in its death penalty system and develop strategies that strive to eliminate them.

INAPPROPRIATE BURDEN OF PROOF FOR MENTALLY RETARDED DEFENDANTS

Georgia's burden of proof for defendants with mental retardation is inappropriate; Georgia is the only state requiring that a defendant prove mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt. Georgia should place the burden of disproving mental retardation on the prosecution when the defense presents a substantial showing that the defendant may have mental retardation. If Georgia continues to place the burden of proof on the defense, this burden should be limited to proof by a preponderance of the evidence.

INADEQUATE PATTERN JURY INSTRUCTIONS ON MITIGATION

Approximately 41% of jurors interviewed in the assessment did not understand that any evidence could be used in consideration of mitigation, and 62% thought the defense had to prove mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt. Georgia should revise its jury instructions to ensure that jurors understand applicable law and monitor the extent to which jurors understand the revised instructions to permit further revision as necessary.

INADEQUATE PROPORTIONALITY REVIEW

To ensure fairnesss in capital sentencing, Georgia should engage in meaningful porportionality review by reviewing cases in which a death sentence was imposed, cases in which the death penalty was sought but not imposed, and cases in which the death penalty could have been sought but was not.

(Georgia ABA Death Penalty Assessment Report, January 2006).

Read the Executive Summary.

Read the Full Report.

See DPIC's Represenation, Race, Arbitrariness Web pages.