Lawyers Speak Out Against Death Penalty

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SAN ANTONIO: Calling the death penalty "a haphazard maze of unfair practices," the American Bar Association has called for a moratorium on executions. The lawyers group plans to lobby Congress and state legislatures against the statutes that it feels are unfair. While the ABA did not come out against capital punishment, it says the administration of such laws is seriously flawed. Members want to see procedural safeguards set in place, such as providing competent counsel for all defendants and federal review of state cases for the 3,000-plus Americans on death row. The vote will find little support from conservative Republicans, whose 1994 Contract with America called for limiting death-row appeals. Lawyers may also have a tough time with President Clinton, a death penalty proponent who has supported the expansion of crimes punishable by death. Given today's tough crime-fighting atmosphere, the vote may have little effect on legislation or on existing statutes, notes TIME's Adam Cohen: "It's a very hard time to argue against the death penalty. They did it as an act of conscience, and it sends a loud message."