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Will The Racists Please Stand Up?

By Paul Wright

The 101st Congress has passed the Racial Justice Act (RJA). What the RJA does is prohibit racism in the application of the death penalty. As currently applied a disproportionate number of the men and women on death row across the U.S. are Black, Hispanic or Na¬tive Americans. The RJA would allow a defendant in a death penalty to show that racism was a factor in being given the death penalty by introducing statisti¬cal evidence showing the death penalty is disproportionately applied against minorities. The RJA still awaits being passed in the senate where it has already lost once by a 20 vote margin.

Not surprisingly the Bush administration has lobbied extensively to defeat the RJA and 21 state attorney generals, including Washington's own Ken Eikenberry, have signed a letter opposing passage of the RJA. Among those who joined Eikenberry in opposition to the RJA are attorney generals: Siegelman (AL), Corbin (AR), Clark (AR), Woodard (CO), Kelly (CT), Bowers (GA), Jones (ID), Pearson (IN), Cowan (KY), Guste (LA), Moore (MS), McKay (NV), Del Tufo (NJ), Stratton (NM), Thronburg (NC), Henry (OK), Frohnmayer (OR), Preate (PA, Medlock (SC), Tellin¬ghuisen (SD) and Meyer (WY).

Nebraska Attorney General Robert Spire also signed the letter but later changed his mind and publicly supported its passage in a letter drafted by NY Attorney General Abrams and signed by Attorney General Humphrey (MN), Shannon (MA) and Tierney (ME).

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