Mon Oct 29, 2007 10:39am EDT
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The American Bar Association said on Monday it was renewing its call for a nationwide moratorium on executions, based on a three-year study of death penalty systems in eight states that found unfairness and other flaws.
The lawyers' group said its study identified key problems, such as major racial disparities, incompetent defense services for poor defendants and irregular clemency review processes, making those death penalty systems operate unfairly.
The American Bar Association in 2001 launched its Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project as the next step toward a nationwide moratorium on executions. The study was part of that project.
The project was created to encourage state government leaders to establish moratoriums and undertake detailed examinations of capital punishment laws and systems in their jurisdictions.
The eight states in the study were Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
The study did not include Texas, which is by far the most active capital punishment state. Since 1976, Texas conducted 405 executions, distantly followed by Virginia with 98, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The study was released as executions appear to be effectively put on hold since the U.S. Supreme Court last month agreed to consider a challenge to the lethal injection method.
On September 25, the high court agreed to decide a challenge to the three-chemical cocktail used under the lethal injection procedures in Kentucky, procedures similar to those used in other states.
So far this year, 42 people have been executed in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Last year, there were 53 executions.
All but one of the 38 U.S. states with the death penalty and the federal government use lethal injection for executions. The only exception is Nebraska, which requires electrocution.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the Kentucky case in January, with a decision likely before the end of June. At issue is whether the lethal injection method constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering.