N° 107/10




Washington, October 22, 2010 - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) concluded today that the United States violated the human rights of Jeffrey Timothy Landrigan, who was sentenced to death. As a result of these conclusions, the Commission requests the immediate suspension of his execution, which is scheduled for October 26 in the state of Arizona, as well as a review of U.S. laws and procedures in such cases in accordance with the rights to a fair trial, due process, and equality before the law.


Jeffrey Timothy Landrigan was sentenced using a procedure that required the death penalty to be imposed by the trial judge, and not by the convicting jury. That procedure was later ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, in a judgment handed down on June 24, 2002, in the case of Timothy Stuart Ring v. Arizona. As the remedy, the Supreme Court ordered that Ring be given access to a new sentencing hearing before a jury, and that the same opportunity be guaranteed in cases thereafter. However, the Supreme Court subsequently ruled in another decision that prisoners whose cases were already final on direct review of appeal at the moment of the Ring decision would not benefit from its retroactive application. Consequently, the courts have denied Jeffrey Timothy Landrigan access to a new sentencing hearing.


In its report on the merits of the case, the Commission concluded that the United States is responsible for failing to comply with its obligations under the American Declaration, including the rights to a fair trial and due process and the right to equality before the law.


Specifically, in practice Jeffrey Timothy Landrigan and a specific group of individuals have been denied access to a remedy for asserting their legitimate right to the review of their death sentences, even though these sentences were based on a procedure declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The IACHR believes that under these circumstances, carrying out the death sentence of Jeffrey Timothy Landrigan would constitute unusual punishment and a violation of his right to be tried by a competent court.


The IACHR also concluded that the distinction applied to Jeffrey Landrigan’s case, in which he was denied the right to a review that was guaranteed to other prisoners who had been sentenced under the same procedure, is not reasonable. The IACHR considers that the differentiated legal treatment received from the courts constitutes inadmissible discrimination, and that the State is therefore responsible for violating his right to equal treatment before the law by denying him, in an unjustified and discriminatory fashion, the determination of his basic rights including, possibly, the right to life itself.


The IACHR also concluded that the lack of access to a review of the mitigating circumstances that could have favored Jeffrey Landrigan and resulted in a more lenient sentence than the death penalty was in violation of his rights to justice and of the rigorous due process applicable in such cases. Thus, it can be seen that the final decision of the court of last resort in the U.S. led to the refusal of a hearing to examine the evidence on the severe organic brain damage affecting the alleged victim at the time of his sentencing.


Consequently, the IACHR recommended that the United States grant Jeffrey Timothy Landrigan effective relief, including the review of his trial in accordance with the guarantees of equality, due process, and a fair trial enshrined in the American Declaration. The Commission also recommended that the United States review its laws, procedures, and practices to ensure that people accused of capital crimes are tried and, if convicted, sentenced in accordance with the rights established in the American Declaration.


The report on the merits of the case was forwarded today to the State Department, as is the usual practice for all communications from the IACHR, with a copy to the Governor of Arizona. The IACHR expects the United States to comply with all the recommendations in this report and in this way to remedy the violation of Jeffrey Timothy Landrigan's fundamental rights.


A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.



Press Release 105/10: IACHR Urges United States to Suspend Execution of Jeffrey Timothy Landrigan

Press Release 63/10: IACHR Condemns Execution of Two People in the United States in Contempt of Precautionary Measures

Press Release 35/08: IACHR Condemns the Execution of Heliberto Chi Aceituno

Press Release 33/08: IACHR Condemns the Execution of Jose Ernesto Medellin

Press Release 22/06: IACHR Condemns the Execution of Angel Maturino Resendiz

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