Monday, December 5th, 2016

Thanks goodness the death penalty takes so long

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The Wisconsin branch of the American Civil Liberties Union is distributing a DVD to public libraries, “The Exonerated.” It’s the story of six people freed from death row thanks to new evidence.

For more information on the movie, check out the Court TV website.

One thing that struck me was how long each of the people were on death row before new evidence cleared them.

Delbert Tibbs 1974 to 1977
Kerry Max Cook 1977 to 1997
Sonia Jacobs 1976 to 1992
Robert Earl Hayes 1990 to 1997
Gary Gauger 1993 to 1996
David Keaton 1970 to 1979

The case of Robert Earl Hayes is interesting considering the DNA evidence used to convict him was considered unreliable. As I wrote in the Waukesha Freeman,

…the evidence is only as good as the prosecution that argues it, the police that gather it, the lab that processes it and the jury’s understanding of it. As much as we may be intimidated by the science of the evidence, we can at least appreciate the potential of failure from the human component of the evidentiary chain.

The justice system is, after all, a human process, one fraught with error and even deliberate falsehood. To trust it to make a life or death decision with no recourse for error is more trust than I am willing to offer.

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