Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2001 6:01 PM Subject: Alabama death penalty news

Oct.29

ALABAMA:

Alabama imposes death penalty most frequently

Alabama has imposed the death penalty more frequently per capita than any other state in the nation in recent years, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics. Alabama, Florida, Texas, North Carolina and California consistently are among the top 5 states in the nation.

Alabama sentenced 31 people to death in 1996-1997, the same number as Florida, which has a population of 16 million, or more than 3 times Alabama's 4.5 million population. Per capita, Alabama sentenced 6.89 people to death per million and Florida sentenced 1.94 per million. California, with 33.9 million people, sentenced 78 people to death, or 2.3 per million; Texas, with 20.8 million people, sentenced 67 people to death, or 3.22 per million; and North Carolina, with 8 million people, sentenced 42 people to death, or 5.25 per million.

In 1998, Alabama sentenced 24 people to death, or 5.33 per million; while North Carolina sentenced 20, or 2.5 per million; Florida sentenced 27, or 1.69 per million; California sentenced 31, or 0.91 per million; and Texas sentenced 40 or 1.92 per million. In 1999, Alabama sentenced 12 people to death, or 2.67 per million; North Carolina sentenced 24, or 3 per million; Florida sentenced 20, or 1.25 per million; California sentenced 43, or 1.27 per million; and Texas sentenced 48, or 2.31 per million. (source: Birmingham News)

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Group that defends condemned inmates takes out billboard ads

A group that defends death row inmates has paid for billboard advertisements that it hopes will generate debate over the death penalty and a Ten Commandments plaque in the state judicial building.

The private Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama paid for ads in Montgomery and at 10 other locations. The billboards depict 2 lightly shaded stone tablets on a black background, with the words "Thou Shalt Not Kill" in black letters.

To the left of the tablets, in large white letters, are the words: "Keeping the Ten Commandments in court?" Then in smaller gold letters are the words: "Alabama sentences more people to death per capita than any other state in America."

The billboards evoke the controversy over Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore's decision to place a 5,280-pound granite monument to the commandments in the state judicial building rotunda.

"We're not telling people that the Ten Commandments prohibit the death penalty," Equal Justice Initiative director Bryan Stevenson told The Birmingham News in a story Monday. "We just want them to question what keeping the commandments in court means."

Alabama has led the nation in death sentences imposed per capita for the past three years, Stevenson said. Figures from the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics show that Alabama, Florida, Texas, North Carolina and California consistently are among the top 5 states in the nation in death sentences.

The billboard campaign is being supported by individuals, churches, synagogues and faith communities, Stevenson said. They include the Church of St. Bede the Venerable in Montgomery; Greater Birmingham Ministries, an ecumenical coalition representing several religious perspectives; Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham and others.

The Rev. David J. Tokarz of St. Bede, one of the billboards' sponsors, said the anti-death message is consistent with the church's position. He pointed to a sign on church property that claims "God is pro-life."

(source: Associated Press)