UNITED NATIONS, June 30 (UPI) -- A U.N. official, singling out Alabama and Texas, called on the United States Monday to ensure the death penalty is applied evenhandedly by its states.
Philip Alston, a special United Nations expert on death penalty issues, said in a statement that officials in Alabama "seem strikingly indifferent to the risk of executing innocent people." Alston met with officials from Alabama, Texas, New York and the District of Columbia.
"When we are talking about a situation in which innocent people have probably been executed, you would expect a greater sense of urgency about reforming the criminal justice system," he said.
Alston said that while in Texas "there is at least significant recognition that reforms are needed," most of the responses Alabama officials had to criticisms were "characterized by a refusal to engage with the facts."
"It is entirely possible that Alabama has already executed innocent people, but officials would rather deny than confront flaws in the criminal justice system," he said.
Alston called for a multi-pronged approach to reforming the criminal justice systems in Alabama and Texas, and for Congress to enact laws allowing federal courts to review all issues in state and federal death penalty cases on their merits.