Former President Jimmy Carter Calls for Fresh Moratorium on the Death Penalty

Arguing that the death penalty continues to be as arbitrary today as it was when nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices suspended it in 1972, former President Jimmy Carter called for a nationwide moratorium on the death penalty as he prepares to speak today at a national symposium on the death penalty held by the American Bar Association and hosted by his Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia .

“The only consistency today is that the people who are executed are almost always poor, from a racial minority or mentally deficient,” Carter told the Guardian. “In America today, if you have a good attorney you can avoid the death penalty; if you are white you can avoid it; if your victim was a racial minority you can avoid it. But if you are very poor or mentally deficient, or the victim is white, that’s the way you get sentenced to death.”

He also reflected on his signing off on the new set of death penalty guidelines as Governor of Georgia in 1973, guidelines created to meet the court’s objections to the death penalty system’s inconsistencies set out in the Furman case. “If I had to do that over again I would certainly be much more forceful in taking actions that would have prohibited the death penalty. In complete honesty, when I was governor [of Georgia] I was not nearly as concerned about the unfairness of the application of the death penalty as I am now. I know much more now. I was looking at it from a much more parochial point of view – I didn’t see the injustice of it as I do now.”

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