Daily Kos, a liberal news site and blog, published a disturbing blog earlier this month about a man who was freed from death row after three decades of being on the brink of death. In the early ’80s, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were charged with the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl, and, not surprisingly, confessed to the crime after hours of pressure. They were found guilty and handed the death penalty, decisions that were later overturned. At a second trial, Brown was handed a life sentence, while McCollum again faced the death penalty. However, they were eventually exonerated by DNA evidence, as many others have been over the years. The defendants, whose IQs were below 70, had appealed to the Supreme Court in 1994 but were denied the request.
In May, CNN published another frightening story regarding the death penalty. In this case, the Delaware Supreme Court overturned the conviction and death sentence of 41-year-old Jermaine Wright. At the age of 18, Wright was convicted of having killed liquor store clerk Phillip Seifert in Wilmington, Delaware. Again, not surprisingly, the evidence presented against Wright was doubtful; he confessed while sleep-deprived and high on heroin. A jailhouse snitch who had a history of cooperating with prosecutors testified that Wright had confessed the crime to him (the testimony was later recanted). No fingerprints, shell casings or any other hard forensic evidence was presented. To add more doubt, four other witnesses confirmed that Wright was with them at the time of the crime, and those who witnessed the robbery could not positively identify Wright as the perpetrator. So flawed and unfair was the conviction that the Delaware Supreme Court gave Wright a new trial.
The idea that the state is powerful enough to kill and that it could accidentally kill an innocent person should be sickening enough to turn anyone and everyone against it. Just think about it: You could be stuck in prison for decades waiting to be murdered by the state, all because some prosecutor chose to win the case as opposed to serving justice. This primitive practice is still applauded by the masses. What does it take to satisfy the bloodlust of the populace? The death of three innocents in the aforementioned cases? Residents of this state who have a conscience can be proud that this state eliminated the death penalty last year, but the country as a whole has much room to improve.
Let’s keep in mind the following: The Innocence Project reports that, since 1989, 318 people have been exonerated while on death row thanks to DNA testing. How many more could be freed? How many were slaughtered who were innocent? The answer can never be known, as the dead cannot defend themselves. The absolute disrespect for the right to life shown by the justice system is unacceptable and must not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Gonzalo Molinolo is a junior history major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.