20 Feb 06

The Death Penalty

Reading an article in Investors Business Daily ("Well Executed") caused me to write this blog. One sentence in particular didn't make much sense: "Death penalty opponents still cannot point to the actual execution of an innocent person."

It’s odd that the author chose to ignore more than one-hundred death-row inmates who have been exonerated by DNA evidence. To me, the issue of whether the death penalty is appropriate for certain criminals is irrelevant. The real issue is whether the death penalty can be maintained in an era when the careers of prosecutors and detectives hinge on securing convictions regardless of innocence or guilt.

An example of what is becoming more prevalent is the case of Ray Krone, the wrongfully convicted "snaggle-toothed killer" whose life was saved with the assistance of my attorney, Alan Simpson. In this case the State of Arizona paid an expert witness tens of thousands of dollars to state that Ray’s teeth matched a bite mark found on the body of the victim. Exonerating evidence was concealed, and even after the expert witness confessed to his peers that he felt committed to lie because he had taken the money, the prosecutor in Ray Krone’s case pushed for and almost had him executed.

Ray was saved from execution when his legal team linked DNA evidence to the real killer who was confronted and confessed to the crime. The people who hid evidence and tried to murder
Ray suffered no repercussions. They did not even apologise.

Advances in the use of DNA have exposed multiple cases of such corruption. Prosecutors and detectives, and expert witnesses rarely suffer consequences for fabricating cases. A legal system that offers $50,000 to a person to utter a few words at a trial, which may lead to wrongful imprisonment, or even execution, without a penalty for telling lies, invites people to play dirty. It is obscene that a State can fork out such amounts, yet keep death-row inmates waiting years for inexpensive DNA tests.

Perhaps the author of the Investors Business Daily article would like to consider how many wrongfully convicted people were executed before DNA evidence could help them.

Email comments to writeinside@hotmail.com or post them below

Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood

9 comments:

Ms Scarlett said...

Like you, the injustice prevalent in the American "justice" system and the inherent wrongness of having the death penalty at all makes my blood boil. I find it incredible that "the land of the free" is the only so called civilised, Western country to still routinely execute people and is second only to China in the number of people it executes year on year. Often the people executed are mentally ill, badly represented and let down by the legal system and sometimes under 18 at the time of the alleged crime, something which is deemed illegal under legal conventions regarding the rights of children.

I didn't know that witnesses were paid to give testimony in court. It seems to me that that provides an inherent conflict of interest and shouldn't be allowed, or payments should at least be limited to just reflect the actual cost of a person taking time off work etc.

There are many arguments against the death penalty which have all been discussed ad nauseum but surely the most conclusive and really only argument you ever need is the possibility that an innocent person will be executed/murdered. Surely this is reason enough to abolish it once and for all? Capital punishment has been outlawed throughout the whole of the EU, surely it's time for the US to follow suit?

Anonymous said...

It was (as always) a well informed piece. Kudos to Jon for addressing so many issues in such a passionate and intelligent way.
RB

Anonymous said...

There is a long history in most Western countries of the execution of innocent people. I expect also that the 'crime passionale' of Ruth Ellis would not warrant hanging nowadays.
Legal murder is abhorrent.
Mike.

Anonymous said...

Is it so wrong? After all, doesn't the Bible say, "...eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.." etc?
Exodus 21:24 and in Deut. 25:11-12

Anonymous said...

Words fail me everytime I read about the execution of innocent people and the story behind it. It would do well for the psychologists to look into the heads of those who get a buzz out of this barbaric practice. What kind of psychological disorder would this expose?!
Terry B

Ms Scarlett said...

To the anonymous poster who asks if it's so wrong since the Bible says "an eye for an eye" etc? Didn't Jesus say you should turn the other cheek? That's the problem with using the Bible to justify things. For every quote you can find to justify something, you can probably find just as many saying the exact opposite.

Mark said...

Sorry about my late comments - just found this blog and have started at the beginning - very interesting!

While I'm sure there have been many innocent people executed in the past, this does not mean there are not murderers/rapists/etc who's crimes were so cold that they don't deserve to die. Whether through modern techniques, such as DNA, or through outright confessions, there are criminals who are guilty beyond a shred of doubt and whose crimes are so heinous that death is the only just punishment. Ryan Dickson and Vincent Gutierrez are two recently executed offenders here in Texas that come to mind - not to mention Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City bomber).

Now, I also feel anyone under a penalty of death from pre-DNA testing times should have their cases looked again to try to ensure no more innocent people are executed - even if there's a shred of doubt, their sentences should be commuted to life without parole. But there are just some people who are so evil and heinous and pose such a grave threat to others inside and outside of prison, that they just need killin'. But we have to be 100% sure that we're killin' the right person.

Anonymous said...

Remember, the 'eye for an eye' crowd only managed to read the first few chapters of the bible. They probably liked the fact it gave them an excuse to hurt others so much that they didn't bother with the rest.
I think you need to pay attention to part two for the get into heaven free card. It's gnashing of teeth before that I'm afraid.

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