John Edwards on Crime

2004 Democratic Nominee for Vice President; Former Jr Senator (NC)

Our justice system is not color-blind

Q: In the last decade, whites were 70% of persons arrested, but only 40% of inmates. Why?

A: Changing mandatory minimum, changing the disparity between crack and powder cocaine--those things are correct. If youíre African-American, youíre more likely to be charged with a crime. If youíre charged with a crime, youíre more likely to be convicted of the crime. If youíre convicted of the crime, youíre more likely to get a severe sentence. There is no question that our justice system is not color-blind.

Source: 2007 Democratic Primary Debate at Howard University Jun 28, 2007

We shouldnít take away the right of severely injured victims

Cases that donít belong in the system should never be in the system. But we donít believe we should take away the right of people like Valerie Lakey, a young girl who I represented, five years old, severely injured for life, on a defective swimming pool drain cover. It turns out the company knew of 12 other children who had either been killed or severely injured by the same problem. Kerry and I are always going to stand with the Valerie Lakeys of the world, and not with the insurance companies.
Source: Edwards-Cheney debate: 2004 Vice Presidential Oct 5, 2004

Put more responsibility on the lawyers, not the victims

CHENEY: We need to cap non-economic damages, and we also think you need to limit the awards that the trial attorneys take out of all of this. Over 50 percent of the settlements go to the attorneys and for administrating overhead.

EDWARDS: Iím proud of the work I did on behalf of kids and families against big insurance companies, big drug companies and big HMOs. We do have too many lawsuits. And the reality is thereís something that we can do about it. We want to put more responsibility on the lawyers to require to have the case reviewed by independent experts to determine if the case is serious and meritorious before it can be filed; hold the lawyers responsible for that, certify that and hold the lawyer financially responsible if they donít do it; have a three-strikes-and-youíre-out rule so that a lawyer who files three of these cases without meeting this requirement loses their right to file these cases. That way we keep the cases out of the system that donít belong in the system.

Source: [Xref Cheney] Edwards-Cheney debate: 2004 Vice Presidential Oct 5, 2004

Eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes

I support greater emphasis on drug treatment and elimination of mandatory minimums for certain non-violent crimes. I also support reform of our probation and parole systems to provide more support and supervision.
Source: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test Mar 3, 2004

Death penalty OK despite flaws, on state-by-state decision

SHARPTON: Senator Edwards, are you saying, since you agree that thereís a lot of problems in the death penalty -- and no one has mentioned the racial disparity about those on death row -- that therefore, you would suspend your support of capital punishment until we dealt with those problems?

EDWARDS: No, I would not.

SHARPTON: So you would proceed even with the flaws?

EDWARDS: I think those changes need to be made in the system. We need to make those changes. Iíve been fighting for those changes in the United States Senate.

SHARPTON: But you would let them continue?

EDWARDS: States can evaluate whether their own system is working. I think they vary from state-to-state. Illinois did that and came to a conclusion that their system was not working. I think we should support that if they make that determination.

SHARPTON: That sounds like statesí rights again. I donít agree with that.

EDWARDS: No, it is not.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary debate at USC Feb 26, 2004

Capital punishment needed-some crimes deserve ultimate

Q: What about this case that means the United States nearly executed over 100 people who didnít do it.

EDWARDS: Very serious issue, and it means we need to take lots of serious steps to deal with it, which means using DNA testing. It means making all of the most modern technologies available. It means making the court system work, not just for those who can hire the best lawyers money can buy, but for folks who have to have indigent counsel. Iíve seen what happens in court rooms. I know how important it is to have a lawyer representing an indigent defendant who knows what theyíre doing.

Q: Why do you favor capital?

EDWARDS: Because I think there are some crimes -- those men who dragged James Byrd behind that truck in Texas, they deserve the death penalty. And I think there are some crimes that deserve the ultimate punishment.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary debate at USC Feb 26, 2004

Death penalty for heinous crimes, but applied fairly

Q: Do you support the death penalty?

A: I believe the death penalty is the most fitting punishment for the most heinous crimes, and I support it. But we need reforms in the death penalty to ensure that defendants receive fair trials, with zealous and competent lawyers, and with full access to DNA testing.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, ďDeath PenaltyĒ Jan 25, 2004

Supports the death penalty

I support greater emphasis on drug treatment and elimination of mandatory minimums for certain non-violent crimes. I also support the death penalty and reform of our probation and parole systems to provide more support and supervision.
Source: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test Jan 8, 2004

More DNA testing to reduce wrongful capital convictions

Edwards supports bringing DNA technology to smaller police departments, to lower-level crimes, and to cold cases. He also believes we should clear the backlog of untested rape kits in unsolved cases, and make DNA testing more available to death penalty defendants to reduce the risk of wrongful convictions. He will accompany increased DNA testing with strong protections to safeguard our civil liberties.
Source: Campaign website, JohnEdwards.com, ďReal SolutionsĒ Jan 1, 2004

Voted YES on $1.15 billion per year to continue the COPS program.

Vote on an amendment to authorize $1.15 billion per year from 2000 through 2005 to continue and expand the Community Oriented Policing Services program. $600 million of the annual funding is marked for hiring additional officers [up to 50,000]
Reference: Bill S.254 ; vote number 1999-139 on May 20, 1999

Rated 63% by CURE, indicating mixed votes on rehabilitation.

Edwards scores 63% by CURE on rehabilitation issues

CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants) is a membership organization of families of prisoners, prisoners, former prisoners and other concerned citizens. CURE's two goals are

  1. to use prisons only for those who have to be in them; and
  2. for those who have to be in them, to provide them all the rehabilitative opportunities they need to turn their lives around.
The ratings indicate the legislatorís percentage score on CUREís preferred votes.
Source: CURE website 00n-CURE on Dec 31, 2000

More funding and stricter sentencing for hate crimes.

Edwards co-sponsored the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act:

Title: To provide Federal assistance to States and local jurisdictions to prosecute hate crimes.

Summary: Provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any violent crime that is motivated by prejudice based on the race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability of the victim or is a violation of hate crime laws.

  1. Award grants to assist State and local law enforcement officials with extraordinary expenses for interstate hate crimes.

  2. Award grants to State and local programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

  3. Prohibit specified offenses involving actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

  4. Increase criminal sentencing for adult recruitment of juveniles to commit hate crimes.

  5. Collect and publish data about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on gender.
Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR1343 on Apr 3, 2001

Require DNA testing for all federal executions.

Edwards co-sponsored the Innocence Protection Act:

Title: To reduce the risk that innocent persons may be executed.

    Summary: Authorizes a person convicted of a Federal crime to apply for DNA testing to support a claim that the person did not commit:

  1. the Federal crime of which the person was convicted; or

  2. any other offense that a sentencing authority may have relied upon when it sentenced the person with respect to such crime.

  3. Prohibits a State from denying an application for DNA testing made by a prisoner in State custody who is under sentence of death if specified conditions apply.

  4. Provides grants to prosecutors for DNA testing programs.

  5. Establishes the National Commission on Capital Representation.

  6. Withholds funds from States not complying with standards for capital representation.

  7. Provides for capital defense incentive grants and resource grants.

  8. Increases compensation in Federal cases, and sets forth provisions regarding compensation in State cases, where an individual is unjustly sentenced to death.

  9. Adds a certification requirement in Federal death penalty prosecutions.

  10. Expresses the sense of Congress regarding the execution of juvenile offenders and the mentally retarded.
Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR912 on Mar 7, 2001

Other candidates on Crime: John Edwards on other issues:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010