Tell Trump: The Death Penalty Is Racist and Should Be Abolished

October 10, 2017, is the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty. As part of our collective efforts toward raising awareness about the reasons why people living in poverty are at a greater risk of being sentenced to death and executed, CCR invites you to add your name to the following letter, telling the Trump administration to abolish the death penalty.


Dear President Trump:

As we mark the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty, I would like to bring to your attention the discriminatory character of the application of the death penalty. Indeed, the death penalty and poverty are inextricably linked. All over the world, the death penalty disproportionately affects people living in poverty. And in the United States, due to structural racism, race and poverty are inexorably linked.

I categorically and absolutely oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and consider its use to be a human rights violation; it is irrevocable, it does not keep society safe and it has never been conclusively shown that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments. For these reasons, I am convinced that the death penalty should be abolished worldwide. The majority of the world agrees: 104 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Indeed, in 2016, the United States was the only country in the Americas to carry out executions.

At every stage of criminal proceedings, social and economic inequalities affect access to justice for those who face the death penalty. For these reasons, the Supreme Court of India acknowledged that poverty was a new mitigating factor when commuting a person’s death sentence to life imprisonment in the 2013 judgement Sunil D. Gaikwad v. State of Maharashtra.

The court declared that it was necessary to consider socioeconomic conditions, such as poverty, when constructing and imposing a sentence.

International human rights standards recognize stringent requirements that must be met for the imposition of the death penalty. We refer to Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that, “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

The death penalty is a discriminatory practice, often used against the poor – with the majority of death row inmates being people of color[1] – and it must be abolished.

I call on the government of the United States to:

  • Abolish this unfair practice;
  • Require that all competent authorities consider, along with the presence of racial discrimination,[2] the economic status of the defendant in deciding whether to impose or uphold a sentence of death;
  • Ensure full respect for the right to a fair trial and the right to effective counsel; and
  • Work to reduce poverty and inequality in all forms in the United States.

[1] See “Death Row U.S.A.” Spring 2017, Criminal Justice Project, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.

[2] See Buck v. Davis, 580 U.S. _; 137 S. Ct. 759, 776 (2017) (finding that testimony infected with “a particularly noxious strain of racial prejudice” in a death penalty warranted a new sentencing); id. at 779 (“it is inappropriate to allow race to be considered as a factor in our criminal justice system”).