ABA initiative launches website focused on clemency in death penalty cases

The American Bar Association’s Capital Clemency Resource Initiative (CCRI) has launched a website designed to improve the public’s understanding of clemency in death penalty cases and provide critically needed resources for lawyers and other stakeholders.

The ABA found that, despite clemency’s historic role as the criminal justice system’s “fail safe” to prevent unjust sentences from being carried out, access to accurate information on clemency in death penalty cases has long been inadequate. To address these unmet needs, three ABA entities—the Death Penalty Due Process Review Project, the Death Penalty Representation Project, and the Commission on Disability Rights—joined in 2015 to form the CCRI. Its new website, www.capitalclemency.org, provides:

• Jurisdiction-specific pages that provide details about clemency in 12 death penalty states, including the procedures for requesting clemency, the relevant decision-maker(s), prior significant grants or denials, demographics of the state, and other important factors that might affect clemency review;

• Text-searchable clemency petitions from different states, tagged by “theme” and issues raised;

• Relevant ABA reports, guidelines, and other policy recommendations;

• Court decisions, academic and magazine articles, and other resources regarding clemency representation in death penalty cases; and

• Specialized training materials for lawyers who are currently representing or interested in representing death row clients, including the CCRI’s exclusive publication, “Representing Death-Sentenced Prisoners in Clemency: A Guide for Practitioners.”

ABA President Hilarie Bass said: “While our Association does not take a position on the death penalty generally, we do believe that every stage of a capital case – from arrest to execution – should be carried out with the utmost care. Clemency is supposed to be a critical part of this consideration, and our profession needs to do more to ensure that it is a meaningful review.”

New information will be added to the website on a regular basis, including additional jurisdiction-specific pages for the other current death penalty states. CCRI staff members are also available to provide additional support and guidance to capital clemency stakeholders on an individual basis.