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February 4 2009 | UNITED STATES

USA

Anti-death penalty lobby hopes for discreet Obama support

 
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AGI

USA:OBAMA E PENA DI MORTE, ABOLIZIONISTI CONFIDANO IN APERTURA

Washington, 3 feb. - Difficile che Barack Obama affronti il tema dell'abolizione della pena di morte a testa bassa. Ma la lobby abolizionista negli Usa (un Paese che, dopo Cina, Iran e pochi altri regimi, conta il numero piu' alto di giustiziati al mondo) guarda con fiducia alla Casa Bianca.

Durante la campagna elettorale, Obama ha parlato di pena di morte solo in un'occasione, nel giugno scorso, quando la Corte Suprema stabili' che condannare qualcuno alla sentenza capitale per lo stupro di un bimbo e' incostituzionale. "Ho detto a piu' riprese-disse in quell'occasione- che penso che la pena capitale dovrebbe essere applicata in pochissime circostanze per i crimini piu' efferati". "Io penso che lo stupro di un bimbo piccolo, di sei o otto anni, sia un crimine atroce e che se uno Stato decide che, in limitate, ristrette, ben definite circostanze, la pena di morte e' applicabile almeno in via ipotetica, questo non violi la nostra Costituzione".

"Obama e la pena di morte? Penso che cerchera' di evitare la questione", liquida il tema Rob Warden, che guida il Center on Wrongful Convictions alla Northwestern University School of Law (l'osservatorio sulle sentenze sbagliate) istituito nella facolta' di legge di Chicago, la capitale dell'Illinois dove Obama ha a lungo vissuto. "Ci sono troppi problemi pressanti: economia, relazioni internazionali, Medio Oriente, Iraq e Iran e poi ancora Afghanistan e Pakistan. Obama ha gia' troppe crisi da fronteggiare".

In realta' a prescindere dalle sue convinzioni, come presidente Obama non ha il potere di abolire la pena di morte, ma potrebbe influenzare la riforma della giustizia penale e soprattutto le decisioni sulla pena di morte attraverso le sue nomine alla Corte Suprema. L'ultimo presidente Usa che rese pubblica la sua avversione alla pena capitale fu Franklin D.

Roosevelt. Quando era governatore dell'Arkansans, Bill Clinton trasformo' in ergastolo tutte le sentenze per gli accusati nel 'braccio della morte', un gesto simbolico che pero' gli costo' la rielezione. E memore dello schiaffo, Clinton non torno' mai sulla questione da presidente.

Obama e' un politico "molto accorto, perfettamente consapevole che mostrarsi apertamente contrario alla pena di morte gli avrebbe impedito di essere eletto", dice Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, in prima linea nel movimento abolizionista statunitense. L'avvocato ricorda che, quando nel'Illinois si arrivo' a una riforma della legislazione in materia, Obama si mostro' defilato, ma fu poi decisivo per l'inserimento di alcuni cambiamenti garantisti nello statuto per le forze dell'ordine (per esempio, l'obbligo di registrare gli interrogatori nei casi di omicidio). E lo statuto, che e' stato poi adottato anche da altri Stati, e' attualmente considerato decisivo per evitare confessioni estorte.

Da quando la pena di morte e' stata reintrodotta negli nel 1976, e' stata utilizzato solo per assassini e loro complici; e l'ultima persona giustiziata negli Usa senza essere stato condannato per omicidio risale al 1964.

Ma gli abolizionisti si augurano che una presa di posizione, almeno a livello morale, possa portare a un cambio di mentalita' del Paese, dove peraltro i favorevoli alla pena di morte sono la grande maggioranza (il 65 per cento, secondo un recente sondaggio): "Il successo politico di Barack e' vitale per riforme di lungo termine e di amplissimo raggio: lui ci deve trasformare dalla nazione che siamo in quella che dovremmo essere. E deve portare tutta la nostra nazione, troppo conservatrice, in un posto migliore".

 

AFP

Anti-death penalty lobby hopes for discreet Obama support

Tue Feb 3 - WASHINGTON - In a country that has almost two-thirds support for the death penalty, US President Barack Obama will likely shy away from addressing the issue head on but could signal a discreet change in attitude, analysts say.

During the presidential campaign, Obama only addressed capital punishment once, when the US Supreme Court ruled that sentencing someone to death for raping a child is unconstitutional.

"I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes," he said in June.

"I think that the rape of a small child, six or eight years old, is a heinous crime and if a state makes a decision, that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that that does not violate our constitution."

"I think that he's going to just avoid the issue," said Rob Warden, who heads the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law in Obama's hometown of Chicago, Illinois.

"There are pressing problems with the economy, international relations, both the Middle East, including Iraq and Iran, and Afghanistan, Pakistan. He's got so many crises to face."

Whatever his convictions, as president Obama does not have the power to abolish the death penalty, which is backed by 65 percent of people in the United States according to recent surveys.

He can, however, push for criminal justice reform and influence death penalty decisions through his nominations to the Supreme Court, which has the sole authority over such matters, according to activists who oppose capital punishment.

The last US president to make public his opposition to the death penalty was Franlin D. Roosevelt. As governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton commuted all death sentences in his state and downgraded them to life in prison, a symbolic gesture that cost him his reelection.

Clinton did not take a public stance on the issue as president.

Obama "is a very smart politician who knows that being completely against the death penalty in America would have made him harder to elect," said victims' rights advocate Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins.

The Illinois-based lawyer who opposes the death penalty said once the death penalty was reformed in the state in 2003, Obama, then a state senator, "was content to walk away and focus on issues that concerned the well-being of larger numbers of people."

During that same period, however, Obama "was instrumental in obtaining passage of some of the key reforms recommended by the governor's commission," said Tom Sullivan, a former Chicago prosecutor who co-chaired the Illinois capital punishment commission.

Sullivan said Obama had played an especially important role in "the statute requiring law enforcement personnel to make electronic recordings of custodial interviews in homicide investigations, the first statute on the subject in the country."

The reform was adopted by several other states. The statute is considered as a means to prevent coerced confessions from being presented as damning evidence.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 it has only been carried out for those found guilty of murder, or being an accomplice to murder. The last execution in the United States of someone other than a convicted murderer was in 1964.

Bishop-Jenkins argued that rather than fundamentally reforming capital punishment in the United States, Obama can help change how Americans think about the death penalty.

"Barack's political success is vital to long-term and bigger reforms in our country. He has to take us from where we are as a nation to where we need to be," she said.

"It has to happen by him showing what overall progressive reform looks like, its benefits, and to guide our all too conservative nation step by step to a better place."

Copyright © 2009 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.

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