For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL), called on Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison to immediately stop the execution of eight human beings that are set to face capital punishment starting on Monday. NHCSL has repeatedly called on Congress and the states to put an end to this inhumane practice, approving a bipartisan resolution last year calling for the end of the death penalty in the United States. In addition, earlier this week, NHCSL joined several organizations from across the ideological spectrum, including their partners at Equal Justice USA, co-signing a letter to Arkansas Governor Hutchison requesting a stay of the 8 pending executions.
NHCSL also recognizes Pfizer’s commitment to the proper use of the medications it manufactures and commends the company for demanding that the Arkansas Department of Corrections return the drugs it uses for lethal injection, as they were improperly sold by a third-party distributor contrary to Pfizer policy.
NHCSL’s stance against the death penalty is based on the clear evidence of bias against Latinos and other minorities in the application of the death penalty, the high costs of death row to tax payers, and the ineffectiveness of capital punishment in reducing crime, among several other reasons. According to the text of the coalition letter: “Racial bias extends far beyond who is sentenced to death. Studies show that when the victim is white, a defendant is more likely to be charged with, and sentenced to, death. Nationally, almost half (47%) of all murder victims since the 1970s are black, but for cases ending in an execution, only 17% of murder victims are black. This is but one piece of the long, familiar story of systemic bias in our criminal justice system.”
“When faith leaders, civil society, the private sector, and citizens of conscience unite behind a just cause, elected leaders should listen. The death penalty has a documented history of being applied arbitrarily, based on racial and ethnic bias, and too often used against the innocent. State-sponsored executions should not happen next week in Arkansas or ever again across our great country,” said NHCSL President, State Representative, Ángel Cruz (PA), adding that: “Latino legislators reiterate our call for an immediate and permanent ban on the death penalty, at the state and federal levels, to prevent the type of irreversible injustice that is the death penalty. We also stand firm behind our belief that the government should devote its scarce resources to prevention and rehabilitation, where taxpayers’ dollars will be more effective.”
A recent Washington Post editorial called the hastily scheduled pending executions in Arkansas a “state-sponsored killing spree” and similarly called on Gov. Hutchison to stop the upcoming executions. Though the state has not executed a prisoner in 12 years, it is set to speed-up the execution of 8 prisoners in 11 days due to the upcoming expiration of the drugs it uses for lethal injections. The Post editorial pointedly stated that “Mr. Hutchinson’s plan is not just unseemly. It is a scenario for subhuman suffering. If the state goes forward, it will be a blot on Arkansas, and on America.”
The likelihood of an innocent person being executed is too high and is increasing, Hispanic state lawmakers also warned. According to the text of NHCSL’s resolution: “…evidence suggests that Latinos have been executed despite possible innocence. Since 1973, more than 150 innocent people have been exonerated and released from death row after having been wrongfully convicted. These men and women collectively spent more than four centuries on death rows throughout the United States.”
The NHCSL resolution further reviews compelling evidence that shows that states without the death penalty consistently record lower rates of crime than those that do apply capital punishment. Further, NHCSL raised concerns over the fact that of the top ten counties that most actively seek the death sentence, all of them have large or majority Latino populations. In fact, the Fair Punishment Project recently released a report outlining death penalty cases in these counties.
The NHCSL is the premier national association of Hispanic state legislators working to design and implement policies and procedures that will improve the quality of life for Hispanics throughout the country. NHCSL was founded in 1989 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)3 with the mission to be the most effective voice for the more than 390 Hispanic legislators. For more information visit www.nhcsl.org.