Thursday, July 19, 2007

Iron Maiden Can Teach Us a Lot About What's Wrong With the Death Penalty

When the priest comes to read me the last rites
I take a look through the bars at the last sights
Of a world that has gone very wrong for me

Can it be there's some sort of error
Hard to stop the surmounting terror
Is it really the end not some crazy dream --Iron Maiden

On the heels of news of a last minute stay of execution for Troy Davis, convicted and sentenced to death row for killing a cop, Mitch, much to the dismay of many of his commenters, expresses his opinion on the death penalty:

I support the death penalty for every possible reason, except one; the likelihood of executing the innocent. And that, as it happens, is dispositive to me. Since an equally-safe-to-the-public method - life in Supermax - exists, there is no moral reason to use the death penalty until such a time as humans are very nearly perfect.

The evidence he uses to support this position is a little underwhelming and somewhat incomplete (emphasis mine):

And as Flash shows in the latest of the over fifty cases such cases that have cropped up since the return of the Death Penalty in 1977, we’re nowhere close to perfect yet...

Actually, the number of death row sentencees who have been exonerated of their crimes since 1973 is 124. And in only 15 of those did DNA evidence play a role in the exoneration. So it's fair to say that there's something far more fundamentally wrong with the system than a historical lack of access to technology or scientific knowledge.

In some of these cases, the most compelling testimony the prosecution put forward, such as it was, were defendants' confessions - one of the more notable cases, #80, was chronicled in John Grisham's latest book, An Innocent Man.

I also had the opportunity to hear #100 tell his story at one of the roughly 17 billion CLEs I attended over the past year. I'd encourage anyone in the "eye for an eye" camp to hear him should the opportunity present itself. It will change your mind.

But anyway, 124 exonerations over the course of 34 years. That's almost 4 per year (1 every 3 months).

So, yeah, it is a moral problem.

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