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NAACP Continues to Oppose the Death Penalty and Supports the Creation of a Commission to Investigate the Current Disparities Plaguing the Federal Death Penalty Sentencing Process

WHEREAS, the NAACP has consistently supported and continues to strongly support the abolition of capital punishment in the U.S.; and

WHEREAS, the Death Penalty is applied in an arbitrary and/or inconsistent manner, thereby violating the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment found in the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; and

WHEREAS, on April 16, 2008, the United States Supreme Court in Baze v. Rees rejected a constitutional challenge to Kentucky's administration of capital punishment via lethal injection. In the short term, the Baze decision has resulted in the resumption of executions, which had been subject to a de facto moratorium since the Court agreed to hear the case; and

WHEREAS, since 1973, 129 death row inmates have been exonerated – most after serving lengthy sentences; and

WHEREAS, for example, Mr. Troy Anthony Davis of Georgia, at 22 years of age, was sentenced to death for the murder of Savannah, Georgia police officer Mark Allen MacPhail, based solely on questionable eyewitness testimony. Although Mr. Davis admitted he was in the vicinity, he maintains his innocence. The evidence in support of Mr. Davis' innocence plea include the following: (1) there was no physical evidence against Mr. Davis; (2) the police never recovered the murder weapon; (3) of the civilian witnesses whose testimonies secured Mr. Davis' conviction, all but three have recanted or contradicted their trial testimony in subsequent affidavits; (4) one of the three witnesses who has remained steadfast in his testimony against Mr. Davis is the principle alternative suspect; and (5) there is new evidence implicating the principle alternative suspect as the gunman; and

WHEREAS, the Troy Anthony Davis case brings back other similar cases such as that of Gary Graham of Texas in which African American men have been executed despite compelling evidence as to their innocence; and

WHEREAS, the American public's support for capital punishment continues to decrease; and

WHEREAS, whites represent approximately 50 percent of murder victims in the U.S., but represent a disproportionate 80 percent of the murder victims for which current death row inmates have been sentenced. This raises the question of whether, in the aggregate, the judicial system places a higher value on the lives of white victims; and

WHEREAS, since 1976, the likelihood of being executed as a result of a capital punishment offense has varied substantially depending on the region of the U.S. in which the offense occurs. As such, 0.4 percent of executions since 1976 have taken place in the Northeast; 11% in the Midwest; 6% in the West, and 82% in the south; and

WHEREAS, nearly 60 percent of Federal Death Penalty inmates are racial or ethnic minorities; and

WHEREAS, impoverished persons facing potential capital punishment sentences often lack the requisite financial resources to hire adequate defense council or have access to new scientific DNA technology; they are often represented by sub-par and/or ill-equipped legal representatives; and

WHEREAS, the cost of sentencing a prisoner to life without the chance of parole is less expensive to American taxpayers than the aggregated cost of litigation preceding the execution of each death row inmate;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP fully supports the commuting of Mr. Troy Anthony Davis' death sentence, and in light of the new compelling information regarding the crime of which he is accused, that he be given a new trial; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP reiterates its continuing opposition to the death penalty at the state and federal levels; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP strongly supports and calls for the enactment of legislation to be introduced by Senator Russ Feingold (WI), the National Commission on Capital Punishment Act of 2008 as a means of investigating the inadequacies surrounding the current Federal Death Penalty.

Derrick Lewis - Youth & College Hero

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