(a) misidentification by eyewitnesses (75%),
(b) unvalidated forensic evidence (50%),
(c) lying government snitches (16%), and
(d) false confessions by juveniles and mentally challenged suspects (25%)
If a jury cannot trust witness testimony, lab tests, or confessions by the accused, what are jurors to believe? Hundreds of wrongful convictions have been overturned by DNA evidence or new trials for convicted persons with substantial new evidence. With all that can go wrong in a case, innocent people will undoubtedly continue to be sentenced to prison. One way to reduce those occurrences would be to allocate more money and attorneys for indigent defense. Troy Davis' appeals attorney reportedly had 70 other active cases while she was defending him on a capital murder charge. One might argue whether such a circumstance as that equals "due process of law."
Although it would cost more to improve indigent defense, states should consider how expensive it is to imprison innocent people. Each inmate costs taxpayers up to $50,000 per year, and significantly more if the inmate has a chronic illness or becomes ill in while incarcerated. Therefore, a 30-year-old wrongly convicted man serving a life sentence costs the state $2 million or more if he lives his normal life expectancy. It seems financially prudent, therefore, to give accused persons every opportunity to prove their innocence and possibly save the state the expense of punishing and rehabilitating people who need neither. The same applies to inmates who petition the court for DNA tests or new trials with substantial new evidence. Every inmate who proves his innocence and is exonerated spares the state the unnecessary financial burden of his continued internment.
Another way the innocent are indicted is through plea bargains. Some people believe that plea bargaining should be used more sparingly or eliminated altogether. Many accused persons are encouraged to give up their constitutional right to a trial by a jury of their peers and cop a plea to avoid the possibility of long prison sentences or execution. Oftentimes, this is a good deal for guilty persons. But innocent people who lack the money for attorneys' fees also accept these arrangements when presented, although a jury might have ruled in their favor upon hearing the evidence.
Since eyewitness testimony, lab tests, and even confessions cannot always be trusted, innocent people will continue to fall through the cracks occasionally and be imprisoned for crimes while the guilty go free. No measures will prevent every single wrongful conviction. But we can stop all wrongful executions very easily. Instead of costing money to do this, it would save around $90,000 per condemned inmate per year: Just end capital punishment, and no one will be wrongly executed. That is the only sure way. Say DEATH TO THE DEATH PENALTY!
* For the Buffalo News report, see:
How just is the justice system in New York? by Ronald Fraser, Ph.D., September 11, 2009
Dr. Fraser writes on public policy issues for the DKT Liberty Project.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
1) Become an advocate! It is as simple as sending one email to your representatives requesting that more funds be allocated for indigent defense.
eMail your congresspersons at this link: www.house.gov/writerep/
If you live in a state that still practices capital punishment, tell your state legislature and governor to repeal the death penalty and use the millions of dollars each year that ending capital punishment would save to better fund public defenders offices, improve inmate rehabilitation, and invest in youth jobs and recreational programs that help deter crime.
eMail your local elected officials at this link: www.emailyourgovernor.com/
2) Become a sponsor! Help support organizations that work to improve justice, like the Innocence Project, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Amnesty International, ACLU, Treatment Advocacy Center, and local organizations in your state. At the end of this blog, we present some links from The Death Penalty Information Center. DPIC is a non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment. The Center, which is widely quoted and consulted by all those concerned with the death penalty, depends on contributions and grants for its funding. Make your tax deductible donations at this link: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/donate-dpic
4) Sign a petition and pass it on!
Justice for Jeremy and Other Mentally Ill Prisoners
5) Get involved! Become a member of national and local organizations that promote justice, support prisoners, and/or advocate to end the death penalty. You can find local groups by browsing for "prison advocacy" with your city's or state's name.
There are also numerous online advocacy groups where members advocate for change, share valuable information and personal accounts, and there are no meetings to attend. Try mine:
ASSISTANCE TO THE INCARCERATED MENTALLY ILL (AIMI) a/k/a The Dorothea Dix Group, at http://www.Care2.com/c2c/group/AIMI
4) Stay informed about justice issues. Please make checking this blog a part of your daily routine. I was drafted to turn America's mind toward justice by the secret arrest and wrongful death of my handicapped brother, Larry Neal, in 2003. I did not realize before then that our justice system is one in which innocent people are incarcerated and some suffer abuse and death. Believing in Lady Justice, I tried taking Larry's wrongful death to court, but was defrauded by our own attorneys. Still believing in the blindfolded lady, we took our fraudulent attorneys to court and discovered Lady Justice had a cornea transplant and could see just fine! She could see that we were black and not wealthy, and she was therefore very unfair. Since then, I've written over 600 articles and blogs regarding justice issues and sent a thousand emails to individuals and groups of thousands. I like to believe that they have helped to inspire some of the improvements that are being made.
Uncovering secrets, writing boldly about faults in the justice system, and exposing wrongs by privileged persons can be perilous. I have been censored and stalked online and in person while denied normal protection under the law to the point that I now live like Ann Frank, but in God I trust. I simply point out what God's will is regarding fairness and compassion - in other words, human rights. You may have read some of my work:
Oscar Grant: 1st Unarmed Black Man Killed by Police in 2009 - Next?
Michael Jackson's Death - The Conspiracy Theory
Enforced Treatment vs. Prison for Acute Mental Patients and Updates
Follow me on Twitter where I am "KoffieTime"- http://twitter.com/koffietime
Get most of my links from this Google profile - http://www.google.com/profiles/MaryLovesJustice
Improvements in our justice system are happening, but bad news gets more press. I always enjoyed returning to my articles at NowPublic.com and reporting when someone I helped advocate for got a stay of execution like Jeff Wood and Thomas Arthur did. I liked being able to report that Oregon built a new mental hospital after Theresa's schizophrenic brother killed her due to untreated mental illness. But I cannot update my NowPublic articles any longer. My membership was suspended after I wrote a series of articles against enforced H1N1 flu vaccines and the concept of militarized health care, despite the series' popularity.
To keep you updated regarding advancements in the justice system as I learn about them, I started a weekend blog at HubPages just to publish improvements and commend the individuals, organizations, and agencies responsible. Visit me on HubPages at the link below, and please send me any good news you come across: http://hubpages.com/profile/Mary+Neal
Your feedback is invited on this blog and any of my articles. You can also contact me directly at MaryLovesJustice@gmail.com or by writing P.O. Box 7222, Atlanta, GA 30357
Thanks for stopping by this blog, and I hope you return tomorrow. Please share the link with your friends and groups. Help to highlight matters that should concern all of us. That is important because elected officials care about what voters care about, and voters cannot care about conditions they don't know about. Send my link and help someone else to know. And do you know what?
God will bless you for your assistance to the least of these, His brethren. (Matt. 25:40)
An excellent resource for information on capital punishment is the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). Below are links to a number of interesting topics DPIC covers. The main link to that organization is http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/home
The Death Penalty in Black and White: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Who Decides
U.S. Supreme Court Denies Rehearing in Kennedy v. Louisiana Opinion
Federal Judge Sharply Criticizes Texas System in Ordering Stay of Execution
U.S. to Seek Death Penalty under New Military Commissions
Crimes Punishable by the Death Penalty News and Developments - Previous Years
Crimes Punishable by the Death Penalty News and Developments: 2007
Those Executed Who Did Not Directly Kill the Victim
Supreme Court Asked to Review Unusual Death Sentence
God Cares About Justice
For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth; To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death. ~ Psalm 102:19-20