Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's never too late to do the right thing.

Man hanged for murder 86 years ago pardoned. An Australian governor gave a posthumous pardon Tuesday to a man hanged 86 years ago for the rape and murder of a young girl, after new research discredited the evidence used for his conviction.

Well, I guess it's way too late for this poor guy, but at least his family gets some relief. But not like any of his immediate family who actually knew him. Still, it's better than nothing.

This case is more evidence for my argument that any conviction based on hair evidence is suspect unless that hair was still attached to the follicle and yielded DNA. Otherwise, any claim that hairs can be matched to the defendant just by a microscopic comparison is bogus.

More importantly, this type of case is my rebuttal to those death penalty proponents who insist that we abolitionists in the US can't point to a single case of an innocent person being executed. Are you really, really sure that in the entire history of this country, we don't have a conviction and execution like this? That was just the way cases used to go: no scientific evidence at all, only a few months between crime and execution (meaning very little time for investigation, review, or for passions stirred up by the crime to die down). And let's not ignore the reality of our racist past. How many black men in the south were executed for raping white women or murdering whites? But I'm supposed to believe that not one of those men were wrongly accused?

It seems utterly implausible to me that we've never executed an innocent person, Justice Scalia's protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. Now, even if not one innocent person has ever been executed or ever will, I'd still be opposed to the death penalty. It's just wrong to kill. But please stop using as an argument for the d.p. the claim that we can't show that this country has ever executed an innocent person. Aren't we all too smart to pretend?

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

The large and constantly-increasing number of people released from prison (several from death row or life sentences) should alone suffice to eviscerate any argument that there is no proof that this country has executed an innocent person. The fact of the execution is part of why we can't prove innocence -- sorry, no DNA, we already hanged him.

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