Friday, May 02, 2014

Oklahoma execution

Having spent the better part of 2012 working to pass a measure to end death sentences in California, I probably learned to have more understanding of those who desperately want to see people who commit terrible crimes killed in their turn by the state. There are such things as revolting acts. Most of these criminals did things to other human being that properly turn our stomachs.

As Oklahoma has proved, again, it's hard to kill someone humanely. It may even be impossible. The eagerness of state authorities to do the deed, whether or not they possessed a viable set of procedures -- the drugs and the expertise to administer them -- seems to have led to their torturing at nasty perp named Clayton Lockett to death. Playing the Keystone cops with a man's body sure doesn't inspire confidence and certainly does inspire horror.

A current study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [paywall] seeks to quantify how many innocent defendants are wrongly convicted and given the death penalty in the US. According to a a report on the study

... at least 4.1 percent of death row inmates are likely innocent. ...

The researchers concluded that of the prisoners sentenced to death in the U.S. from 1973 to 2004, 1.6 percent [were] found innocent and exonerated.

The study argues that this number does not reflect the true amount of innocent people sentenced to death in the U.S., because many death-sentenced defendants are removed from death row and instead given a life imprisonment sentence, and therefore their case loses the attention and resources for exoneration that it would have had, had the inmate remained on death row.

"The high rate of exoneration among death-sentenced defendants appears to be driven by the threat of execution," says the study. "But most death-sentenced defendants are removed from death row and resentenced to life imprisonment, after which the likelihood of exoneration drops sharply."

Fortunately, in many states, prisoners sentenced to death receive good legal representation. What these authors suggest is that those sentenced to life fall out of that legal safety net; even if they are factually innocent, prisoners without money or family support are likely never to manage to prove it.

The Death Penalty Information Center currently lists 144 individuals who had their charges dismissed or won acquittals after death sentences since 1973.


Rain Trueax said...

yeah, this is one of my areas of guilt. After seeing some horrible murderers get out and do it again (we had some examples here in Oregon and they were white), I voted along with the majority to bring back the death penalty for certain crimes.

Then I was on a jury, some years later. I saw how we did not get all the information. I have observed with many examples of how imbalanced the system is and changed my mind.

Our Democratic governor as soon, as he got in office, said he won't allow any executions while he is governor. It's one of the issues though that Oregon needs to reconsider. Not so much because of all the hype over this botched execution, but just because the justice system is flawed (being run by humans likely you can't fix it either) and you should not execute anyone when it's so unfairly weighted. Life in prison should though mean life in prison-- unless further evidence exonerates the person.

Hattie said...

My objection is that it is perverted and disgusting to kill people this way. I've worked with prisoners, including some who did awful things, but to imagine them being put to death? No. It's not right. This kind of murder inflames people's aggressive, sadistic natures. We really need to work to become a kinder and more merciful society.

Hattie said...

You gotta read this.