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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

ABA panel criticizes 'flawed' Pennsylvania death penalty system
Devin Montgomery at 6:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Pennsylvania's death penalty system [PA DOC materials] is so flawed that it has denied defendants of due process and could result in wrongful executions, the American Bar Association death penalty assessment team [ABA materials] said Tuesday. The team's report [PDF text; executive summary, PDF] identified several problems [fact sheet, DOC] with the Pennsylvania system, including a failure to ensure competent legal representation for the accused, racial and geographical bias, a lack of adequate pre-conviction safeguards and meaningful post-conviction review, and ineffective instructions to capital case jurors of their roles and responsibilities. ABA President William H. Neukom noted that it was "critical" that deficiencies in the system be corrected [press release], saying that "It is important to have a fair and accurate process, not just for the accused but also for the victims and for the public." The Philadelphia Inquirer has local coverage. The ABA Journal has additional coverage.

Pennsylvania is the latest of seven states [ABA materials] to have their death penalty systems reviewed since 2001, including Georgia, Ohio, and Alabama [JURIST reports].

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