The Death Penalty & DNA Exonerations

graphicSince the days of Perry Mason, television has fed the public a constant diet of citizens accused and convicted of capital murders that they did not commit. Currently, the plethora of CSI series would have us believe that forensic evidence miraculously and regularly exonerates innocents as they rot in prison cells.
 

Cameron Todd Willingham

Cameron Todd Willingham

The wrongful accusation, conviction, imprisonment and execution of innocents was a staple of The Good Wife on CBS, which recently featured Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck and the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. The elegance of that particular case is that it is impossible to prove if Willingham truly was innocent as the Good Wife and Scheck claim, or was the remorseless arsonist who was executed in 2003 for torching his three young daughters in 1991. The point is that on these television programs forensics are always definitive, defense lawyers are never wrong, and innocent people are convicted, imprisoned and executed.
 
 
w-colemanOf course, print media is complicit as well. Convicted killer Roger Coleman made the cover of Time Magazine on May 18, 1992 with the caption “This Man Might Be Innocent: This Man Is Due To Die”. Fourteen years after being executed DNA evidence proved that Coleman was guilty of murdering his sister-in-law.
 
The June 12, 2000 cover of Newsweek Magazine featured death row inmate Ricky McGinn. Again, the suggestion was that an innocent man was about to be executed. McGinn stated that DNA testing would prove that he didn’t rape and murder his 12-year-old step-daughter. Under intense media pressure Texas Governor George Bush ordered a 30-day reprieve. When DNA testing proved that McGinn was guilty beyond any doubt he was finally executed.
 
Wouldn’t you be surprised to learn then, that at the end of 2013 there were 2,220,300 prisoners incarcerated under state and federal jurisdiction, yet the total number of DNA exonerations for any kind of felony is less than 350? To date, despite years of parading remorseless killers as innocent victims the abolitionists and other death row apologists cannot definitively demonstrate that an innocent man has been executed.
 
The ultimate irony is that death penalty abolitionists crave the execution of an innocent man so that their indignation can run amok, while those who favor the death penalty pray that an innocent is never executed so that the fragile system of ultimate justice can be preserved.
 

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