The Dead and the Damned
That's not entirely correct. A more accurate phrasing would be"we don't know if we've ever executed an innocent person."
That's because once someone's executed for a crime, prosecutors in most jurisdictions close the books on the case. Permanently. Files are generally either sealed or destroyed. The reason? Precisely so arguments like Goldberg's retain their validity. No one wants to be the first DA who's proven to have sent an innocent man to his death. Once the convicted is put to death, odds are no one will ever lay eyes on the kind of evidence that might later point to doubt. The files are gone. Or inaccessible.
A second reason we'll never know is because public interest groups who take capital cases -- Barry Scheck's"Project Innocence," for example -- aren't ever likely to spend precious resources clearing the name of a dead man when there are hundreds of cases of the living accused in the queue. Yes, it would certainaly give death penalty opponents a great rhetorical tool if they could prove the execution of an innocent, but if you've only got the money and time to take ten cases, and you're looking at hundreds of potential living innocents behind bars, it's hard to justify taking on a dead client.
Goldberg may or may not be right (I'd strongly suspect he isn't). The point is, we'll really never know.
Check here for Goldberg's response to this post, and my reply to his response.
comments powered by Disqus
Peter Francis Kuntz - 2/12/2004
In my opinion, we do have proof that an innocent person has been executed. "The Scapegoat" by Anthony Scaduto, published sometime in the 1970s, presented a very compelling case that Bruno Richard Hauptmann was completely innocent of the crime for which he was convicted and executed: The kidnap/murder of the infant Charles Lindberg III.
- Fake News and Fervent Nationalism Got a Senator Tarred as a Traitor During WWI
- Debunking Viral Story, Art Historian Says ‘Allah’ Does Not Appear on Ancient Viking Garment
- Will Trump Be Remembered as the Worst President in History? Almost Half Think So
- Thank This Man For Your Last-Minute Halloween Costume
- Letters from young Obama show a man trying to find his way
- Thomas Childers says we’ve got the Nazis wrong in 5 different ways
- National security expert Tom Nichols: “Hey, I’m unstable” is a bad look for the president
- Fake news? It’s nothing new, says Trinity College Dublin historian
- Historian discovers early Reformation writings “hiding in plain sight”
- Victor Davis Hanson says we shouldn’t be rushing to war with North Korea