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Rhode Island ACLU Responds to Court Ruling in Death Penalty Case

Posted: May 07, 2012|Category: Criminal Justice

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The RI ACLU said today it was “extremely disheartened” by today’s 3-2 decision, issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, overturning Governor Lincoln Chafee’s efforts to prevent the institution of federal death penalty charges against Jason Wayne Pleau. The ACLU had filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of the Governor’s position.

Rhode Island was the second state in the Union to abolish the death penalty in 1852, and it has not carried out an execution since that time. In a letter sent to the U.S. Solicitor General last year, the RI ACLU and other organizations denounced as “inappropriately gratuitous” the U.S. Attorney’s efforts to initiate death penalty proceedings against Pleau. The ACLU further argued that the Department of Justice’s own standards on when to pursue the death penalty “offer no basis for this course of conduct.”

RI ACLU executive director Steven Brown said today: “We are extremely disheartened by today’s appellate court ruling. Like the two dissenters in that ruling, we do not believe that the federal government should be able to obtain all the benefits of, but evade its obligations under, the federal Interstate Agreement on Detainers law. We do not seek to minimize the pain that David Main’s family has suffered, but it is wrong for the federal government to impose on our state a policy that Rhode Island eliminated more than a century and a half ago.”

The ACLU has long argued that the death penalty is not a deterrent, that it is imposed in a discriminatory, arbitrary and irrational manner, and that it remains capable of convicting innocent people. The ACLU and other groups opposed to the death penalty will continue to urge that the federal government drop any plans to proceed with a death penalty case against Pleau, who has already agreed to serve a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

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