President Bush took a modest step in last night’s State of the Union address toward acknowledging criticism that the legal process in some death penalty cases could be flawed and that some defendants lack adequate legal representation, says the Los Angeles Times. “Because one of the main sources of our national unity is our belief in equal justice, we need to make sure Americans of all races and backgrounds have confidence in the system that provides justice,” Bush said.
He proposed a $50-million, three-year program to help train defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges in state capital cases in the proper application of laws. That is a small sum in federal budget terms. Although Bush said he would seek $20 million of that money in the fiscal 2006 budget, many states may get only a few hundred thousand dollars. The death penalty is legal in 38 states. Bush called for full funding of his DNA initiative, a $1-billion plan announced two years ago intended to eliminate a huge backlog of unprocessed DNA evidence in criminal cases.