James Coleman, Chair of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, testified before Congress on June 20 urging reform: “When the criminal justice system wrongfully sends an innocent person to prison or death row, it threatens all of us. The unimaginable horror of the execution of an innocent person should give us all the resolve to do what is necessary to fix what now clearly is a broken system.”

“Poor compensation almost inevitably means that virtually the only lawyers who are available to handle capital cases are inexperienced, ill-prepared and under-funded,” Coleman testified. “In such a system, it is not surprising that inexperienced lawyers often conduct inadequate factual investigations, fail to keep abreast of the complex and constant changing legal doctrines that apply in capital litigation and often make procedural errors that later preclude review of meritorious claims.” In an ABA press release, the organization stated: “The ABA believes the failure of states to provide adequate representation in these cases has led to serious and repeated errors that are undermining the public’s confidence in the outcome of capital cases, and the justice system overall.”

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