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Amnesty mounts US drive against death penalty

Amnesty International announced Wednesday that it would mount a four-month, 16-state effort to lobby against capital punishment in the United States. The group issued a 245-page report citing findings that the death penalty is applied disproportionately to blacks and poor people in the South, making it a ``lottery.'' It said that politics, money, race, and where the crime was committed can play a greater role in an execution decision than the crime itself. In some cases, they said, the death penalty places the United States in violation of international treaties.

It said no credible studies have found that the death penalty deters crime.

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The Amnesty report said a record 1,838 prisoners were on death row at the end of 1986, waiting to see if they would be ``electrocuted, gassed, poisoned, hanged, or shot dead.''

Thirty-seven states have the death penalty on the statute books although only twelve - mostly in the South - have actually carried out executions since 1977. This week however, the Justice Department urged a congressionally-created commission to recommend new sentencing guidelines that would reimpose the death penalty for certain federal crimes.

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