Friday, February 19, 2021

Abolish the Death Penalty

 “Everybody’s worst fear about capital punishment is that innocent people will be wrongfully convicted and executed,” Robert Dunham, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) executive director, said. “But the more we learn about what actually happens in these cases, the worse the problem gets.”

The DPIC added 11 cases to its “Innocence List” that tracks American death row exonerations on Thursday, bringing the total to 185 and raising concerns over the likelihood more innocents – especially people of colour – will be condemned.

DPIC has found wrongful death penalty convictions in “virtually every part of the country, with exonerations documented in 29 states and 118 different counties”, the report found. By their estimate, one in every 8.3 people sentenced to death in the United States since capital punishment resumed in 1970 were exonerated.

The cases reveal trends of “misconduct and racial bias”, the DPIC said. About 70 percent involved misconduct from police, prosecutors or other government officials. Roughly 80 percent “involved some combination of misconduct or perjury/false accusation and more than half involved both”.

Black exonerees saw misconduct in their cases at a much higher rate, 78.8 percent, than white exonerees at 58.2 percent. “Black exonerees spent an average of 4.3 more years waiting for exoneration than white exonerees”, the report said.

A major concern involving cases that involve capital punishment is false evidence, including false confessions – which occur at rates as high as 25 to 30 percent in exonerations won by DNA evidence. Forensic practices, such as hair analysis, bitemark analysis and bloodshot patterns, played an outsized role in wrongful convictions. DNA evidence has played a profound role in exonerations, the DPIC report said. DNA uncovered mistakes in official misconduct, false confessions, mistaken witness identification and more in capital punishment cases at much higher rates than cases where no DNA was present.

Despite concerns over capital punishment, the federal government conducted 13 executions between 2020 and the end of former President Donald Trump’s administration in January 2021, including the first killing of a female inmate since 1953. The executions were uniformly challenged based on faulty evidence or the mental acuity of the condemned, though none won reprieves.

‘We can be sure innocents died’, US death row exonerations show | Crime News | Al Jazeera

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