Saturday, February 05, 2005

George Bush Takes Positive Step for Capital Punishment

I, and most progressives, have been accused of blindly branding every George Bush act as demented, evil, selfish, bloodthirsty.....pick a label. There's an element of truth to that accusation. For that reason, I highlight a positive, refreshing proposal from his State of the Union address this past week.

A New York Times editorial today, "Legal Counsel for Capital Cases"....

"We were thrilled to hear President Bush announce in his State of the Union address on Wednesday that he would seek funds for expanded training of defense lawyers in death penalty cases. This is welcome recognition of one of the more glaring flaws in the nation's wretched system of capital punishment: the all-too-frequent denial of effective assistance of counsel. It was also an encouraging sign of progress, given Mr. Bush's refusal to acknowledge the pervasive problem of inadequate counsel while presiding over Texas's plethora of executions while he was its governor.

Of course, Mr. Bush is becoming well known for not matching his actions to his words - the Millennium Challenge to help alleviate poverty in Africa, Latin America and Asia comes to mind. So we anxiously await next week's budget to see whether the White House will put its money where Mr. Bush's mouth is. It's still an open question.

According to sketchy details provided by the White House, Mr. Bush will ask Congress to spend $50 million over three years, mostly to underwrite efforts by bar associations and others to provide special training for lawyers, judges and prosecutors involved in capital cases. That is far short of the $375 million over five years that Congress called for spending to improve the quality of representation in the broadly bipartisan Justice for All Act, which Mr. Bush signed into law just last October.

Beyond expanded training, the new law contains well-written provisions that set standards for effective representation and provide large financial incentives for states to meet them. So all eyes are on Monday's budget - we hope it includes financing for these incentives, which will reveal Mr. Bush's true commitment to death penalty reform. "

Next...US elimination of capital punishment. We are the last democratic, western country to continue this barbaric practice. We are the only Christian-majority country to continue this cruel and unusual, inhumane practice.

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