On September 28, Damon Thibodeaux was freed from death row in Louisiana after an extensive investigation, including DNA testing and the cooperation of Jefferson Parrish District Attorney Paul Connick. Thibodeaux was sentenced to death for the 1996 rape and murder of his cousin. He at first confessed to the attack after a nine-hour interrogation by detectives. He recanted a few hours later and claimed his confession was coerced.
Another deadly mistake has been uncovered and corrected. Michael Keenan was released from Ohio’s death row today, after serving 24 year of imprisonment, for a crime he did not commit. This is Ohio’s second exoneration in nine months, the seventh since 1976 when the death penalty was resumed in the United States and the 141st nationally.
A few years ago, Antonin Scalia, one of the nine justices on the US supreme court, made a bold statement. There has not been, he said, "a single case – not one – in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred … the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops."
When the Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty 35 years ago, it did so provisionally. Since then, it has sought to articulate legal standards for states to follow that would ensure the fair administration of capital punishment and avoid the arbitrariness and discrimination that had led it to strike down all state death penalty statutes in 1972.
“Death by Fire,” a very compelling documentary by PBS’ “Frontline” about wrongly convicted and executed Texas death row prisoner Cameron Todd Willingham. He was sentenced to death for killing his three children by arson, but as the program made clear once again, junk science and poor fire investigation methodology resulted in Willingham’s wrongful conviction. The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and The Innocence Project notes that evidence released in recent years, beginning before Todd Willingham was executed in 2004, lead to the “inescapable conclusion that Willingham did not set the fire for which he was executed.”
Submitted by Clarence Pugh on Sat, 12/19/2009 - 1:46am
Oregon has come perilously close to sentencing people to death for crimes they did not commit. Five people have been convicted of murder, or aggravated murder, and given sentences ranging from twenty years in prison to life without the possibility of parole. Death penalty supporters insist that the system in Oregon has made no mistakes because no death sentenced person has been exonerated. It is only through pure luck that this has not happened. Oregon does not need the death penalty – it is too risky and cannot be undone.
By JOHN SCHWARTZ -- It took just 80 words for a federal appeals court to deny Kevin Cooper’s most recent plea to avoid execution. But attached to that order was a forceful 101-page dissent by a judge, all but pleading to spare Mr. Cooper’s life. “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man,” it began. The judge who wrote the dissent, William A. Fletcher of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, argued that the police and prosecutors had withheld and tampered with evidence in the case for decades; Judge Fletcher even accused the district court of having sabotaged the case.
Within the past two weeks two more men have left a death row prison, found innocent after serving years for crimes that did not commit. These two exonerations mark #134 and #135 since 1973, and five already in the first seven months of 2009. “The five exonerations this year demonstrate that innocent people still face a significant danger of execution in this country”, said Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
Capital punishment is legal in the U.S. state of Oregon. The first execution under the territorial government was in 1851. Capital punishment was made explicitly legal by statute in 1864, and executions have been carried out exclusively at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem since 1904. The death penalty was outlawed between 1914 and 1920, again between 1964 and 1978, and then again between a 1981 Oregon Supreme Court ruling and a 1984 ballot measure. Since 1904, about 60 individuals have been executed in Oregon. Aggravated murder is the only crime subject to the penalty of death under Oregon law.