In advance of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this Wednesday on legislation aimed at providing death penalty defendants with appropriate defense counsel, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, through its Institute for Public Affairs, expressed its support for the legislation.
In a letter, to Senator Leahy, the Union noted that “Jewish tradition clearly contemplates the death penalty as a legitimate, ultimate sanction within a criminal justice system. But at the same time, our tradition just as clearly requires that capital punishment must be administered by a process that ensures accuracy as well as justice. Over the past year, many questions have been raised as to whether this demand of accuracy and fairness is being met in America’s court systems. Academic studies and published news reports have indicated that there may be serious failings with regard to the legal counsel and resources furnished to capital defendants. These serious questions must be addressed…”
The letter went on to state that the “Innocence Protection Act,” sponsored by committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, “takes important steps toward addressing the issues of accuracy and fairness in America’s capital cases. To ensure that capital defendants receive competent counsel, the Act will establish a National Commission on Capital Representation and promote higher standards for capital case attorneys. To begin to address questions of accuracy, the Act will also provide capital defendants with greater access to DNA technology where appropriate.”
The UOJCA intends to work with Senator Leahy to secure passage if this important legislation.