John Ashcroft's First Year as Attorney General

Capital Punishment

In June, Ashcroft told Congress that "There is no evidence of racial bias in the administration of the federal death penalty." His statements contradicted a September 2000 Justice Department report, which found that minorities were considered for the federal death penalty more often than whites, accounting for 74 percent of such cases since 1995.73

Last summer, the Justice Department killed a pilot program providing federal money to pay for DNA testing of inmates. The plan, originally proposed during Janet Reno's tenure as attorney general and finalized under Ashcroft, was put on hold in August.74 In December, the National Institute of Justice, the department's research arm, announced it had used the $750,000 grant money on DNA testing of the terrorism victims and additional research on identifying casualties. Seattle lawyer Irwin Schwartz, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, criticized the decision saying, "Almost 100 people will have been released from prison soon who DNA evidence showed were innocent, and it's been an uphill battle because of the lack of funds to do testing."75

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