On January 17, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) filed anamicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of James M. Dailey, an inmate on Florida’s death row, urging a new trial in his case due to persuasive evidence of actual innocence. The amicus brief explains the Catholic Church’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty. The Church teaches that capital punishment violates respect for life and human dignity. The injustice is especially acute in the instance of an innocent person sentenced to death. The amicus brief also argues that the execution of an innocent person violates the Constitution of the United States.
The amicus brief reviews the facts of Mr. Dailey’s case and concludes that the evidence of his actual innocence is persuasive, but that he was not able to present it at a new trial for procedural reasons. The brief declares that there is no legal or procedural reason that could morally justify the execution of an innocent person.
Both the USCCB and FCCB uphold the Church’s teaching on the dignity of life and on capital punishment in the amicus brief by stating, “The radical injustice of punishing an innocent man is particularly grievous in the case of a sentence of death, which is by its nature final and irreversible.” The brief recalls that “Pope Francis has also identified the convictions of innocent men and women as striking at the core of the death penalty’s claim to justice: ‘[t]he death penalty loses all legitimacy due to the defective selectivity of the criminal justice system and in the face of the possibility of judicial error. Human justice is imperfect, and the failure to recognize its fallibility can transform it into a source of injustice.’”
The full text of the amicus brief is available here.