WASHINGTON — Dozens of recommendations on improving the implementation of the death penalty — from trial procedures to the use of executive clemency to the method of execution — have come out of a bipartisan "death penalty committee" established by the Constitution Project.
A 217-page report issued Wednesday by the committee includes 37 "black letter recommendations," as well as companion analysis in support of those recommendations prepared by the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
One key recommendation is that "[j]urisdictions should act with transparency in the development and administration of lethal injection protocols," an issue raised by defense counsel in several states — including Oklahoma, where last week's botched execution has led to a delay in a pending execution in the state while a review of procedures is completed.
According to the report, "Texas, California and Alabama remain, by far, the most active states in terms of sentencing individuals to death, and all three require significant death penalty reforms." The report also singles out Texas and Alabama, along with Pennsylvania, for "often compensat[ing] capital defense counsel at such low levels as to make effective representation nearly impossible."
Developments since the committee's last report, in 2005, show "the urgent need for reform and issuance of new and revised recommendations," the report states.
In describing the committee behind the recommendations, the report notes, "The Committee's members include both supporters and opponents of the death penalty. They are Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals. They reflect the full range of criminal justice stakeholders, including those with experience as judges, prosecutors, defenders, law enforcement officers, policymakers, victim advocates and scholars."
The Committee's Recommendations On Lethal Injection:
- Jurisdictions should rely on the most current scientific knowledge to develop protocols that minimize the risk of pain or suffering, which currently demands the adoption of a one-drug protocol.
- Jurisdictions should act with transparency in the development and administration of lethal injection protocols.
- Jurisdictions should use only drugs obtained in compliance with all laws and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in humans and should take appropriate measures to ensure the quality of the drugs.
- Jurisdictions should ensure that qualified medical personnel are present at executions and responsible for all medically-related elements of executions.