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Commentary :: Human Rights
BTL:After 30 Years, Architects of Death Penalty Guidelines Withdraw Their Support
23 Jan 2010
BETWEEN THE LINES Syndicated Radio Newsmagazine
After 30 Years, Architects of Death Penalty Guidelines Withdraw Their Support

Interview with Richard Dieter, executive director of the death Penalty Information Center, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

In early January, the legal institute responsible for creating a framework for the death penalty and believing 30 years ago that it would create a fair application of capital punishment statutes, withdrew its support while not coming out forcefully for repeal.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was carried out arbitrarily by states, was cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. At that point, the American Law Institute, made up of the nation's most respected lawyers, judges and legal scholars, developed guidelines to help determine which individuals convicted of murder should face the death penalty. They included consideration of aggravating circumstances, such as multiple victims, death of a police officer, and the victim's age. They also considered mitigating circumstances, such as the conditions under which the perpetrator was raised, abuse he or she may have suffered, and mental incompetence. The Supreme Court relied heavily on these guidelines in determining whether states could re-institute their death penalties beginning in 1976.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, about the Law Institute's withdrawal of support for its own capital punishment guidelines and what this could mean for efforts to abolish the death penalty in the U.S.

Contact the Death Penalty Information Center at (202) 289-2275 or visit their website at

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"Between The Lines" is a half-hour syndicated radio news magazine that each week features a summary of under-reported news stories and interviews with activists and journalists who offer progressive perspectives on international, national and regional political, economic and social issues. Because "Between The Lines" is independent of all publications, media networks or political parties, we are able to bring a diversity of voices to the airwaves generally ignored or marginalized by the major media. For more information on this week's topics and to check out our text archive listing topics and guests presented in previous programs visit:

Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 45 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine.
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