In the comments yesterday, Patrick Collins left us a link to The Innocence Project.
The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, 222 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 12 years in prison before exoneration and release.
Patrick said the Death Penalty should be abolished. "If even one person is wrongly convicted and executed that should be reason enough to get rid of it. There is ample substantiation this happens." I agree absolutely. It doesn't take a statistician to extrapolate from the figures above and work backwards. Innocent people have been executed.
Another thing The Innocence Project lawyers are working on is proper compensation for the exonerated people. Twenty-five states have no benefits at all, many of the other 25 offer inadequate compensation.
But how do you compensate people whose lives have been disrupted by a wrongful conviction? Are the errors that produced those convictions being examined for wrongdoing on the part of prosecutors, judges and law enforcement personnel? Remember the case in Texas, a Capital case in which the female judge was having an affair with the district attorney? Nothing wrong there, they decided.
Another question I have is this: if somehow we could be certain that no wrongful conviction would ever take place, would we then be in favor of the Death Penalty? I say no. I oppose Capital Punishment because it's wrong, morally wrong. Never executing innocent people would be a side benefit of abolition. By abolishing the Death Penalty we eliminate the awful moral inconsistency of telling people that shouldn't kill one another, but if they do, sanctioning the government to do just that.
What do you think?