There has been much debate over the death penalty in this nation, much of it centered on the ultimate morality of the state taking a life. On a related note, part of the argument against the death penalty has been the finality of it and the fact that if a person is wrongly executed, that wrong cannot be undone.
At the very least, it seems, even advocates of the death penalty should be willing to promote guidelines that require all scientific means to confirm evidence in a death penalty case are used. And, when in doubt, defer from that ultimate penalty.
As a number of documentaries have indicated—starting perhaps with 1988’s landmark “The Thin Blue Line,” prosecutorial misconduct, or at the least, prosecutors playing loose with the rules, also wrongly might have landed people on death row. And, once that happens, it seems that some prosecutors are willing to block any effort by those convicted to have the latest scientific methods applied to their case.
The problem is, most prosecutors are elected and their conviction rates often are key to reelection. Though we’re sure there will be an outcry about us saying this, some will go to great lengths to protect their win loss record. To paraphrase one of the interviewees in “Thin Blue Line,” it takes a good prosecutor to send a guilty man to jail; but, it takes a great prosecutor to send and innocent man to jail. No need to discuss the term “testilying” at this moment.
Our point is, while the article we want you to read talks about one in 25 people sent to death row being innocent, we wonder if that includes politically motivated over-zealous prosecutors (and judges) blocking efforts to apply the latest scientific methods to analyzing evidence in many of these cases. That said, the next question is, are the numbers of persons wrongly sent to death row higher than what is reported here?
One in 25 Sentenced to Death in the U.S. Is Innocent, Study Claims
By Pema Levy
How many are sentenced to death in the United States for crimes they did not commit?
A new study believes the figure is 1 in every 25—or 4.1 percent.
The study, released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “tells you that a surprising number of innocent people are sentenced to death,” Samuel R. Gross, the lead author, said in an interview with Newsweek. “It tells you that a lot of them haven’t been exonerated. Some of them no doubt have been executed.”
Since 1973, 144 people on death row have been exonerated. As a percentage of all death sentences, that’s just 1.6 percent. But if the innocence rate is 4.1 percent, more than twice the rate of exoneration, the study suggests what most people assumed but dreaded: An untold number of innocent people have been executed. Further, the majority of those wrongfully sentenced to death are likely to languish in prison and never be freed.
About the Author (Author Profile)Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.
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