Across the United States, in observance of the March 1-International Death Penalty Abolition Day, student members of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) are speaking out in opposition to the death penalty. Every year, law school chapters participate in the NLG Student Day Against the Death Penalty by organizing panel discussions, debates, film screenings, and other events. There are currently more than 3000 people on death row in the United States.
Míchel Angela Martinez, the NLG National Student Organizer, says, “Students in the National Lawyers Guild focus attention every year on the death penalty because it is a grave injustice. While electing Barack Obama was historic—a special achievement—he supports capital punishment, which remains a racist, classist, tragic mark on our justice system. Guild students are determined to change the public’s and the president’s views about the death penalty, and it starts with days of action like this.” The NLG calls for the immediate abolition of the death penalty.
National Lawyers Guild students focus not only on the cruel and unusual nature of capital punishment, but also on its inconsistent and economically and racially biased application. Students educate the public about the social and psychological impacts the death penalty has on those in the prison system and their families and communities. Capital punishment is being increasingly scrutinized as death row inmates are exonerated and states such as New Jersey officially outlaw the practice. We hope that other states can look to New Jersey for inspiration and use their efforts as a model.
The National Lawyers Guild, an organization of attorneys, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers, is part of the growing national and international movement opposing the death penalty in the United States. Founded in 1937 as the first racially integrated bar organization, the NLG today comprises over 200 chapters and committees using the law in the service of the people.