Wednesday, December 17, 2003


This is from a NYTimes column from Dec. 5, about the professor and his students that helped free some innocent folk from death row.

The part that caught my eye....

In an interview, Professor Protess said he initially was surprised by the number of cases he and his students encountered in which the prisoners were innocent. "I'd always thought that miscarriages of justice were an aberration and that our justice system, overwhelmingly, worked well," he said. "But I was seeing error rates of 10 to 15 percent. I was very struck by how pervasive the problem was."

I asked if he thought any innocent people had actually been executed.

"Oh, absolutely," he said. "There's just no question."

I also believe, from my own reporting, that innocent people have been put to death. Proof, however, is difficult to obtain because people are unwilling to do an extensive investigation after someone has been executed.

"You have to triage the cases," said Mr. Protess. "Do you want to investigate the case of somebody who's alive on death row who may be innocent, or somebody who's already been put to death?"

Now here is our advice. Find the one. It is easy to say innocent people have been executed without having to name one. Find the one. Put a name to a face. Show us the person that was plucked off the street and whose life was brutally ended. Who is it that will never see another day because of the excesses of the state? I know I would look at the situation with new eyes if you could say without a doubt and with ample proof "John Brown was wrongly executed and can't be brought back." Surely there are anti-penalty foundations that would fund this search for "The One."

The fact is, not one of the nearly 900 people executed post Gary Gilmore, has found to be retroactively innocent. Or, I should say, the fact as of now.

My prediction: Find "The One" and the percentage of people that support the death penalty (currently in 60's) would completely flip-flop overnight. The whole debate would change.