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USA: Death penalty / Legal concern for Jeffrey Franklin

, Index number: AMR 51/151/2000

Nineteen-year-old Jeffrey Franklin is charged with murdering his parents, Gerald and Cynthia Franklin, and with attempting to murder three of his siblings. The Madison County District Attorney's Office is intending to seek the death penalty against him in violation of international law, which forbids the use of the death penalty against those who were under 18 years old at the time the crime was committed.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 51/151/00
EXTRA 76/00 Death penalty / Legal concern 3 October 2000
USA (Alabama)Jeffrey Franklin, aged 19
Nineteen-year-old Jeffrey Franklin is charged with murdering his parents,
Gerald and Cynthia Franklin, and with attempting to murder three of his siblings.
The Madison County District Attorney’s Office is intending to seek the death
penalty against him in violation of international law, which forbids the use
of the death penalty against those who were under 18 years old at the time
the crime was committed.
Jury selection began on 2 October in Huntsville, Alabama, and the trial, which
is likely to take two to three weeks, is expected to begin this week.
Jeffrey Franklin was 17 years old when his family was attacked, reportedly
with a hatchet, on 10 March 1998. In 1999, he was found mentally incompetent
to stand trial. Following treatment, it has been determined that he is now
able to stand trial. The defence have entered a plea of not guilty by reason
of mental disease or mental defect.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Amnesty International opposes capital punishment under all circumstances. Some
108 countries are abolitionist in law or practice, but in contrast to these,
the USA not only retains the death penalty, it also consistently violates
international standards in its pursuit of judicial execution. One blatant
example is its use of the death penalty against children, i.e. those under
18 at the time of the crime. Since 1993, there have been 17 known executions
of child offenders worldwide. The USA carried out 12 of these, including four
this year. Some 80 child offenders await execution in 16 US states. See USA:
Crying out for Clemency: The case of Alexander Williams, mentally ill child
offender facing execution (AMR 51/139/00, September 2000).
The principle that children should never pay for their crimes with their lives
stems from universal recognition of their immaturity and potential for
rehabilitation. The use of the death penalty against child offenders violates
numerous international agreements, including the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the
Child. The latter has been ratified by all 193 United Nations (UN) member states,
except for the USA and Somalia. The USA ratified the ICCPR in 1992, while
attempting to reserve the right to execute child offenders. The Human Rights
Committee, the UN expert body which oversees compliance with the treaty, has
ruled that the US reservation is invalid and should be withdrawn.
On 17 August 2000, the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of
Human Rights adopted a resolution affirming that the use of the death penalty
against child offenders violates customary international law. A principle of
customary international law is one that is a general practice accepted as law
and is binding on all countries, regardless of which treaties they have or
have not ratified. The Sub-Commission stated its unequivocal condemnation of
such use of the death penalty and called on all offending countries to abolish
it, and “in the meantime, to remind their judges that the imposition of the
death penalty against such offenders is in violation of international law”.
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Sixteen of Alabama’s death row inmates are believed to have been under 18 at
the time of the crimes of which they were convicted. Only Texas, with 28, has
more child offenders on its death row.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send faxes/express/airmail letters in English or
your own language, in your own words, using the following guide:
- acknowledging the seriousness of the crime, and expressing sympathy for the
surviving members of the Franklin family and their friends;
- explaining that you are writing neither to condone the crime nor to express
any opinion on the guilt, innocence or mental condition of Jeffrey Franklin;
- pointing out that international law prohibits the use of the death penalty
against those who were under 18 at the time of the crime;
- noting that apart from the USA, only Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran and the Democratic
Republic of Congo have carried out such executions in the past seven years;
- urging Madison County not to seek a death sentence against Jeffrey Franklin.
APPEALS TO:
There are two prosecutors, James R. Accardi and Rob Broussard. You may write
to either one, or both, addressing them as follows:
Assistant District Attorney
Madison County District Attorney’s Office
100 North Side Square
Huntsville, Alabama 35801, USA
Fax: + 1 256 532 6974
Salutation: Dear Assistant District Attorney
You may appeal to Alabama’s Governor and Attorney General, expressing concern
that Alabama leads the USA in the death penalty against children. You may note
that this breach of international law is seriously damaging the USA’s image
abroad. Urge them to use their power and influence to lead Alabama towards
ending this internationally illegal practice, and to urge Madison County not
to seek a death sentence against Jeffrey Franklin.
Governor Don Siegelman
State Capitol, Room N-104
600 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36130, USA
Fax: + 1 334 242 0937
E-mail: http://www.governor.state.al.us/office/email/email.html
Salutation:Dear Governor
The Honourable William H. Pryor
Office of the Attorney General
Alabama State House
11 South Union Street, Third Floor
Montgomery, AL 36130, USA
Fax: + 1 334 242 7458
E-mail: http://www.ago.state.al.us/contactform.cfm
Salutation:Dear Attorney General
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of USA accredited to your country.
You may also write brief letters (not more than 250 words) to:
- Letters to the Editor, The Huntsville Times, P.O. Box 1487, Huntsville AL
35807, USA. Fax +1 256 532 4420. E-mail: htimes@htimes.com
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PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 3 November 2000.

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