Carter calls for abolition of death penalty

Former President Jimmy Carter on Tuesday called for the end of the death penalty, saying it is too often imposed against the poor, minorities and those with diminished capacities.

“We should abolish the death penalty here and throughout the world,” Carter told a symposium at the Carter Center sponsored by the American Bar Association.

In 1973, Carter, then governor of Georgia, signed the state’s capital punishment statute into law after it had been struck down a year before by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case, Furman v. Georgia. The new law was upheld by the high court in 1976 in the case, Gregg v. Georgia.

Carter condemned Georgia’s burden of proof for inmates who say they should be ineligible for execution on grounds they are mentally disabled. Georgia is the only state in the country that requires inmates to prove their mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt.

In recent years, Carter has called for the state to commute the death sentence imposed against Warren Hill, who sits on death row for killing a fellow prison inmate. Hill was only able to prove his mental disability by a preponderance of the evidence — or more likely than not — and courts and that state parole board have rejected his claims.

Georgia’s burden of proof “makes is almost legally impossible” for inmates to prove they are mentally disabled, Carter said. “That would be hard for me to do if the jury was bipartisan in nature.”

About the Author