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Oppose Senate Amendment to Expand Federal Death Penalty

July 20th, 2009

Take Action TODAY:

Oppose a Senate Amendment to Expand the Federal Death Penalty

Today, Monday July 20, 2009 the Senate will again take up the Defense Department authorization bill. Three amendments threaten to weaken the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Prevention Act that was accepted by the Senate last week.

Please forward a link to this alert to your community members, friends & concerned groups: The vote is expected Monday afternoon by 3pm.

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty asks YOU to call your U. S. Senators’ offices and express your Opposition to the Death Penalty and to vote AGAINST any expansion of the federal death penalty.

Call the Senate switchboard right now at 202-224-3121 and tell your Senator to vote NO on the Sessions Amendments to the hate crimes bill. They are unnecessary, unhelpful and should not be adopted. For Senate office phone numbers and e-mail addresses, view here.

Here are some talking points for your calls:

I am concerned that Senator Sessions reportedly intends to introduce an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization that would expand the federal death penalty. As your constituent, I urge you to oppose any expansion of the federal death penalty

  • The Department of Justice has found widespread geographical and racial disparities in the application of the federal death penalty
  • 35 individuals have been exonerated and released from death rows in this country, a stark reminder that innocent people across the country continue to face the threat of execution.
  • I urge you to uphold the fundamental principles of justice and human rights and oppose any expansion of the death penalty

Thank you for your immediate action.

Background:

  1. The first Sessions Amendment would allow the death penalty to be applied in hate crimes cases under some circumstances. This Amendment is unnecessary and is a poison pill designed to kill the bill. The Amendment is being offered by and supported by Senators who oppose the Matthew Shepard Act. It’s ironic that the very Senators who have falsely argued that this bill would put clergy in jail because of their beliefs think that those same clergy should be subject to the death penalty.
  2. The second Sessions Amendment would place an additional burden on the Justice Department to revise its long established guidelines for hate crimes cases. This Amendment is unnecessary. The Department already has well-established, clear and precise guidelines to govern cases involving bias-motivated violence that work well.
  3. Finally, the third Sessions Amendment would provide additional penalties for crimes involving service members or their families. This Amendment is unnecessary. Existing statutes already provide special penalties on attacks against members of the Armed Services and veterans. In addition, the vague language of the Amendment is problematic. The Amendment provides for additional penalties for injuring the property of a serviceman or immediate family member. The scope of “family member” or what constitutes an “injury” to their property is unclear.

Regardless of how the Senate disposes of these amendments, the Matthew Shepard Act will next head to a conference committee and then final votes in the House and Senate, likely in September. President Obama stands ready to sign it.

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