Update on Federal Death Penalty Related Legislation

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will reconvene Sept. 5. For the final session of the 106th Congress. The session is expected to last for only a few weeks, so lawmakers can return home to campaign for the November elections. it will be the last opportunity for them to enact several bills that would ban or restrict the use of the death penalty.

The bill with the best chance of success is the Innocence Protection Act, introduced in the Senate as S.2690 and in the House as H.R.4167 (Note: S.2690, introduced June 6, is a new bipartisan version of S.2073, which bore the same title). It is designed to reduce the risk that innocent persons may be executed. It would provide convicted offenders with access to post- conviction DNA testing, offer incentives to states to insure competent legal counsel at every prosecution stage, require that juries be informed of the option to sentence defendants to life without parole, and enable people who have been unjustly incarcerated to obtain compensation.

S. 2690 currently has the following 11 Democratic and three Republican Senators as co-sponsors:
Akaka (D-Hawaii), Boxer (D--Calif.), Collins (R-Me.), Dodd (D-Conn.), Feingold (D-Wis.), Jeffords (R-Vt.), Kennedy (D-Mass.), Kerrey (D-Neb.), Leahy (D-Vt.), Levin (0-Mich.), Mikulski (D-Md.), Moynihan (D-N.Y.), Smith (R-Ore.) and Wellstone (D-Minn.).

H.R. 4167 has the following 70 members of the House of Representatives (56 Democrats, 13 Republicans and one lndependent) as co-sponsors:
Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), Ackerman (0-N.Y.), Baird (D- Wash,), Baidaoci (D-Me.), Baldwin (D-Wis.), Barreft (D- Wis.), Berman (D-Calit.), Boehlert (R-N.Y.), Brown (D- Ohio), Brown (0-Fla.). Carson (0-ind.), Conyers (0- Mich.), Coyne (D-Pa.), Danner (0-Mo,), Delahunt (D- Mass.) [chief sponsor], Engel (D-N.Y,), Eshoo (0-Calif.), Evans Fattah (D-Pa.), Filner (D-Calif.), Foley (R- Fla.), Frank (0-Mass.), Ganske (R-lowa), Gutierrez (D- 111.), Hastings (D-Fla.) Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Hoeffel (D-Pa.), Houghton (R-N.Y.), Jackson (D-111.), Jackson-Lee (D- Tex.), Kennedy (D-R. I.), LaFaice (0-N.Y.), LaHood (R- 111.), Lantos (D-Calif.), Lewis (D-Ga.), MoGovern (D- Mass.), McHugh (R-N.Y.), McKinney (D-Ga.), Meek (D- Fla.), Morelia (R-Md.), Myrick (R-N.C.), Nadler (D-N.Y.), Olver (D-Mass.). Payne (D-N.J.), Paid (R-Wis.), P6ce (D-N.C.), Rahall (D-W.Va.), Rangel (0-N.Y.), Rivers (D- Mich.), Roemer (D-Ind.), Rothman (D-N.J.), Sanders (I- Vt.), Scarborough (R-Fla.), Schakowsky Srot (D- Va.). ShayS (R-Conn.), Smith (D-Wash.), Stark (D- Calif.), Stupak (D-Mich.), Thompson (D-Miss.), Tierney (D-Mass.), Udall (D-Colo.), Upton (R-Mich.), Vento (D- Minn.), Walsh (R-N.Y.), Wan (0-N.C.), Waxman (D- Calif.), Weiner (D-N.Y.), Wexler (D-Fla,), Wynn (0-Md.).

Other bills in the 106th Congress relating to the death penalty include: S. 2463. The National Death Penalty Moratorium Act of 2000, a bill to institute a moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty at the federal and state levels until a National Commission on the Death Penalty studies its use and policies ensuring justice, fairness and due process are implemented. Introduced April 26, 2000. It has the following co-sponsors:
Boxer (D-Calif.), Durbin (D-Ill), Feingold (D-Wis), Levin (D-Mich) and Wellstone (D-Minn),

H.R. 4162, the Accuracy in Judicial Administration Act of 2000, a bill to assure protection for the substantive due process rights of the innocent by providing a temporary moratorium on carrying out the death penalty moratorium on carrying out the death penalty to assure that persons able to prove their innocence are not executed. Introduced April 4, 2000, it has 44 co-sponsors, all Democrats:
Baldwin (D-Wis), Barrett (D-Wis), Brady (D-Pa), Brown (D-FIa.), Brown (D-Ohio), Capuano {D-Mass.), Carson (D-!nd), Christensen (D-VI)), Clay (D-Mo.), Conyers (D- Mich.), Cummings {D-Md.), Davis (D-Ill.}, Delahun (D- Mass ), Engel (D-N.Y.), Farr (D-Calil.), Fattah (D-Pa}. Hastings (D-Fla.}. Hillard (D-Ala,), Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Jackson (D-Ill), Jackson-Lee (D-Tex.), Johnson (D- Tex.), Kildee (D-Mich.), Kilpalrick (D-Mich) Lee (D- Calif), Lewis (D-Ga.), McGovern (D-Mass.), McKinney (D-Ga ), Meeks (D-N.Y), Millender-McDonald (D-Callf.) Norton (D-D C.), Owens (D-N Y), Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rahall (D-WVa.), Rush (D-Ill.) Sandlin (D-Tex), Schakowsky (D-Ill), Thompson (D-Miss.), Tierney (D- Mass), Towns (D-N.Y,), Waters, (D-Calif ), Watt (D-N C), Woolsey (D-Calil.) and Wynn (D-Md).

S.1917, The Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 1999, a bill to abolish the death penalty under federal law, introduced Nov. 10, 1999, Current sponsors include two Senators: Feingold (O-Wis.), Levin (D-Mich ).

Contacting lawmakers

Mailed letters are generally considered the most effective way lo express your opinions to Senators and representatives. Here are some tips on writing them:
Keep it brief. Letters should be kept to one page, and should be limited to one issue. Congressional aides must deal with many letters on many issues each day.
State up front who you are and what you want. In the first paragraph, say you are a constituent and identify the issue you're writing about. If your letter pertains to a specific bill, it helps to identify it by its number (S.--- in the case of Senate bills, H.R.-- -for House bills).
Cite the three most important points you feel will be most effective in persuading the lawmaker to support your position, then flesh them out. Personalize your letter by stating why this bill matters to you. If you have a personal story about how it affects you or your family, include it.
Such stories can be very persuasive as the legislator shapes his or her position.
Personalize your relationship. If you've ever voted for the lawmaker or contributed time or money to his/her campaign, or if you're familiar with him/her through any business or personal relationships or church membership, say so. The closer he or she feels to you, the more powerful your argument will be.
Consider yourself the expert. Remember your legislator's job is to represent you. Be courteous, but don't be afraid to take a firm position.
Address your letter as follows:

Senator _____(full name)_____
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator (last name) :

Representative _____(full name)____
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative (last name) :

Telephone and e-mail communications are less effective, but can be used when you don't have time to write a letter. To telephone your comments, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask to be connected to the office of a particular Senator or Representative. To find out a lawmaker's e-mail address, check http:// www.senate.gov or http://www house gov You can also use Internet legislative action centers operated by groups like the Friends Committee on National Legislation (http://congress.nw.dc.us/fconl) to write messages to legislators and e-mail them to their offices. At a new Amnesty International site (http://'www.amnestyusa.org/raisetheroof/action/indexlPA.shtml) and another maintained by the American Civil Liberties Union (http://aclu.org/action/dpmoratorium106.html) you can send pre- written messages to legislators asking them to support the Innocence Protection Act.
To write to President Clinton to ask him to use his executive clemency power to commute the sentence of a federal death row inmate, or to urge him to impose a moratorium on the use of the federal death penalty, address your letter as follows: President William J. Clinton, The White House, Washington, DC 20500. You can also convey your message to the White House Comment Desk (.phone 202-456-1111, fax 202-456-2461 ) or e-mail it to

This article appeared in the August 25, 2000 issue of CACP News Notes.