This morning, religious leaders from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in Florida held a press conference to react to a report from Harvard’s Fair Punishment Project, branding the counties as “outliers” due to their overuse of the death penalty.
Press conference participants released a letter to the State Attorney’s Office signed by more than 75 local religious leaders demanding a halt to death penalty prosecutions in both counties. EJUSA’s Florida-based organizer, Christine Henderson (pictured at the podium), helped organize the sign-on letter and was on hand to speak about the national implications of the ‘outlier’ report.
“Given the host of problems plaguing the death penalty in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties – wrongful convictions, racial bias, disproportionate use against the mentally ill – we are united in calling for an end to this failed practice,” said Rev. Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson pastor of First United Church of Tampa.
The report found ongoing problems with overzealous prosecutors, ineffective defense lawyers, and racial bias, and that the impact of these chronic issues included convicting innocent people.
“In Hillsborough County, we have seen three people wrongfully sentenced to death and later exonerated,” said The Most Reverent Robert Lynch, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg. “The death penalty clearly is prone to error and, moreover, unnecessary today where there are alternative means to protect society. It is imperative that our officials promote a culture of life and stop pursuing the death penalty.”