Statement by The Justice Project on Atkins v. Virg
Subj: Statement by The Justice Project on Atkins v. Virg
Date: 06/20/2002 3:24:31 PM Eastern Daylight Time
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Statement by The Justice Project on
Atkins v. Virginia
Atkins’ Attorneys, Other Experts Available for Comment
The Justice Project applauds today’s United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Atkins v. Virginia. The ruling reflects a growing national concern that the administration of the death penalty is unfair. The Justices affirmed a value most Americans already held—the execution of people with mental retardation must be prohibited. It simply violates the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.
The decision comes at a time when there is growing agreement among death penalty proponents and opponents alike that the capital punishment system is broken. Two pro-death penalty governors have declared moratoria on executions, more than 100 people have been exonerated from death row, and there is increasing momentum for state and federal legislation addressing flaws in the system.
Today’s Supreme Court decision is not a cure-all for a flawed system. Instead, it is yet another signal that reform is needed. Congress should enact the Innocence Protection Act, a bi-partisan bill that calls for access to DNA testing, minimum standards for defense lawyers in capital cases, and other steps to protect the innocent. A majority of House members have signed on in support of the bill, including more than 60 Republicans.
There is a critical debate in this country about whether or not the death penalty is morally appropriate, a debate that will likely continue for some time. Today’s Supreme Court decision is a significant milestone. But it is not enough. Next, Congress should pass the Innocence Protection Act.