The D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations, concerned over what its president called "the rise of crime and the demoralization of the D.C. police," is asking Congress to overturn a recently passed City Council law repealing Washington's dormant death penalty.
The council passed a bill repealing the death penalty at its last meeting in December, but all council action must first go before Congress for a 30-day review before becoming law. In order for a local law to be overturned on Capitol Hill, a member of Congress must introduce a resolution of disapproval that must then be supported by both chambers.
Federation President Stephen A. Koczak said his organization's membership has taken the unusual action -- asking Congress to veto a local law -- because of anger with City Council member David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), the chairman of the council's judiciary committee, who sponsored the bill to repeal the death penalty. Koczak said federation members think the death penalty repeal is just one example of Clarke's lenient treatment of criminals. p
The Federation of Citizens Associations comprises 25 groups with a total of about 5,000 members, most of them white. The federation is the older counterpart to the larger, more influential and predominantly black Federation of Civic Associations that was formed shortly after World War I because blacks were denied access to the citizens group.
Most members of the first citizens group live in Northwest Washington, where the recent increase in violent crime has sent residents of normally quiet neighborhoods banding together into "crime watch" programs.
Although the death penalty has been on the books here since 1901, no one has actually been executed in the city's electric chair since 1957, and the law itself was effectively nullified by a 1972 Supreme Court ruling.
"Our bill will not repeal the death penalty," Clarke said. "The Supreme Court repealed the death penalty." Clarke said that the repeal was recommended by the D.C. Law Revision Commission, a panel advising the council on ways to overhaul the city's criminal code, after public hearings in each of the city's eight wards.