August 28, 2020

Keith Nelson’s Execution Was No Act of Justice

Contact: Nancy Rodriguez

Washington, D.C. – American Constitution Society President Russ Feingold condemned today’s execution of Keith Dwayne Nelson, the fifth man to die since federal executions resumed this summer.

“The federal government is in the midst of an historically unprecedent, arbitrary, and cruel rush to put people to death, after a nearly twenty-year moratorium. Today’s execution of Keith Nelson is the fifth in the past two months. For perspective, the federal government executed three men between 1988, when the federal death penalty was reinstated, and 2003, when the moratorium began. In the past two months, absent any urgent need and despite serious factual or procedural concerns in each case, the administration has killed nearly twice as many people. With two additional executions scheduled for September, the Trump administration is poised to triple the number of federal executions since 1988.

This country is in the midst of a move away from the death penalty—thirty-two states now have either no death penalty or have not carried out an execution in more than a decade. Executions are at an historic low, and a majority of people in the U.S. favor life imprisonment over the death penalty. Now is not the time for the federal government to put the machinery of death into overdrive.

Like so many other people on death row in the United States, Keith Nelson’s life was one marked by abuse, cognitive impairment, and mental illness. He suffered significant brain damage as a newborn, was physically and sexually abused as a child, and had a history of mental illness. And like so many other people on death row, he received inadequate legal representation at his trial. His lawyer failed to raise Mr. Nelson’s history of abuse and cognitive impairment, which could have led to a sentence of life imprisonment, rather than death.

Whatever his crimes, Keith Nelson’s execution was no act of justice.”


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