Friday, September 4, 2015

A story that should required reading for anyone who still supports the death penalty

A story that should required reading for anyone who still supports the death penalty

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I've always opposed the death penalty for one reason -- I think it's immoral, and everything else is secondary. But if you don't object to capital punishment on moral grounds, there's always the issue of injustice, driven home by this story:

Carlos De Luna was executed in 1989 for stabbing to death a gas station clerk in Corpus Christi six years earlier. It was a ghastly crime. The trial attracted local attention, but not from concern that a guiltless man would be punished while the killer went free.

De Luna, an eighth grade dropout, maintained that he was innocent from the moment cops put him in the back seat of a patrol car until the day he died. Today, 29 years after De Luna was arrested, Liebman and his team published a mammoth report in the Human Rights Law Review that concludes De Luna paid with his life for a crime he likely did not commit. Shoddy police work, the prosecution's failure to pursue another suspect, and a weak defense combined to send De Luna to death row, they argued.

"I would say that across the board, there was nonchalance," Liebman told The Huffington Post. "It looked like a common case, but we found that there was a very serious claim of innocence."

Two innocent people were murdered here -- the gas station clerk and De Luna, murdered by the state for a crime he did not commit. And there's now no way to obtain real justice for either one. What's telling is how long it took researchers to unravel this tale -- five years of recent research, completed some 23 years after De Luna's execution in Texas. This is a wrongdoing that newspapers, for example, didn't have the resources to investigate in the salad days. Now, forget it.

Or we could just abolish the death penalty, as most civilization natons have done. Innocent men would still be jailed -- but a handful of wrongfully convicted might actually still be alive if and when they are ever exonerated. As the article notes:

The ease with which De Luna was prosecuted and the obscurity of his death are what makes his case so important, said Liebman.

"There are many cases out there that nobody has ever looked at and are probably at risk of innocence," said Liebman. "It's a cautionary tale about the risks we take when we have the death penalty."

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Will Bunch
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