Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee passes halt to executions

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Cc: ; 
Sent: Thursday, April 15, 2004 10:06 PM
Subject: Re: Death Penalty ( For Immediate Release:

Congratulations on a job well done. I am so proud of you Esther for working so hard and sticking to your beliefs. I will share the good news at the convention this Friday and Saturday. I hope you can attend, if not we will rejoice for you and the inmates on death row. Rosemary, you keep up the good work too. We have all been in a fight for the lives of others and I thank God for seeing some results in some areas. Take care and May God Bless and Keep you.
Roberta Franklin 

Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee passes halt to executions
Vote comes as juvenile death penalty bans move forward in Florida and Alabama

      The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-1 yesterday to suspend executions for three years while the state's death penalty is examined for fairness and accuracy.  The bill, sponsored by Senator Hank Sanders, now moves to the Senate floor.  Sanders sited racial bias and incompetent defense lawyers as two flaws plaguing Alabama's death penalty.  The issue has gained attention as a grassroots campaign spearheaded by Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty has
crisscrossed the state speaking to churches, city councils, and other groups about the need for a moratorium.  Twenty-four city and county councils in Alabama have called for a moratorium on executions, among 110 local governments nationwide.

      The historic moratorium vote comes as both Alabama and Florida Senate committees join a national trend to raise the eligibility age for the death penalty to 18.  The juvenile death penalty bans move to the Senate floor in both states.  Wyoming and South Dakota passed similar bills last month, and the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the issue later this year.  Also today, juvenile Ryan Matthews, on Louisiana's death row for seven years, will be granted a new trial on the basis
of DNA testing that indicates another man committed the crime.

      "This recent flurry of activity indicates that the problems plaguing our nation's death penalty remain in the public consciousness," said Shari Silberstein, Co-Director for the Quixote Center's Equal Justice USA program, which works for a death penalty moratorium nationwide.  "The Alabama Senate took an historic step today to begin to address a host of problems ranging from racial bias to incompetent lawyers to arbitrary application.  This is truly the result of a concerned
public speaking out and demanding that lawmakers take action."

      Over 60% of those executed since Alabama reinstated the death penalty have been black, compared to only 2% of the state's prosecutors and 4% of criminal court judges.  A third of all African American men in the state have permanently lost the right to vote, more than any other state in the country.  

      "That is a shameful record for a state so closely associated with the struggle to secure voting rights for blacks during the civil rights movement," Silberstein continued.  

      The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee is the first legislative body to pass a moratorium bill this year.  Maryland's Senate passed a death penalty study bill by a vote of 30-16 last month.  North Carolina's House is poised to vote on a moratorium bill that passed the Senate last year by a vote of 29-21. Nationwide, over 3,300 national and local groups, businesses, and faith communities have called for a halt to executions, including 110 local governments.  (For a complete listing, call 301-699-0042 or see the National Tally at  To learn more about the Quixote Center's Equal Justice USA program, visit