Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit supporting a motion to stay the federal execution of Orlando Cordia Hall, which is scheduled for Nov. 19, 2020. LDF’s brief urges the court to stay Mr. Hall’s execution to allow him to pursue challenges to his death sentence in light of substantial evidence of racial discrimination in both the administration of the federal death penalty and in jury selection at his trial.
Mr. Hall was sentenced to death by an all-white jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in 1995. After the federal government resumed executions for the first time in 17 years this summer, Attorney General William Barr announced on Sept. 30 that Mr. Hall would be put to death on Nov. 19 at the at U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“Mr. Hall’s death sentence was imposed by an all-white jury after prosecutors used their discretionary strikes to remove Black prospective jurors from the jury panel,” said Sam Spital, LDF’s Director of Litigation. “Mr. Hall has also presented evidence that federal prosecutors in Texas have been far more likely to pursue death sentences against Black defendants. The court should afford Mr. Hall a meaningful opportunity to investigate and litigate these claims. It would be a fundamental miscarriage of justice for the United States to carry out Mr. Hall’s execution without the court first considering the merits of these substantial claims that his death sentence was infected by racial discrimination.”
“Federal courts have a particularly important role to play in ensuring that federal death sentences are carried out free from any racial discrimination,” said LDF Assistant Counsel Kevin E. Jason. “Claims that racial discrimination infected a death sentence are different than other constitutional claims, because they impose unique harms not only to defendant, but to society as a whole and to the rule of law itself. Under no circumstances should Mr. Hall’s execution proceed while these substantial claims remain outstanding.”
LDF has long opposed the death penalty, arguing that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and that its administration is rife with errors that violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, including those that have resulted in dozens of innocent people being sentenced to death. The American capital punishment system is also deeply infected with racial discrimination. For example, studies have shown that convicted defendants are far more likely to receive a death sentence if their crime resulted in the killing of a white victim versus a Black victim.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization. LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Follow LDF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.