The Holy Grail of Anti-Death Penalty
August 27, 2001
The press has just reported
yet another condemned inmate being cleared by DNA evidence. Charles
Fain spent nearly 18 years on death row for the rape and murder of a 9 year
old girl. DNA tests now show that hairs found on the girl's body were
Thank goodness for the long
time periods customary between sentencing and execution, or else Fain would
have been long gone.
The current prosecutor in
that jurisdiction, as well as the girl's family, accept the fact that Fain
Amazingly, the original
prosecutor still feels Fain is guilty, based on an FBI shoeprint expert who
said shoeprints at the scene matched Fain's. The FBI also conducted
the now-discredited test indicating the hairs were Fain's.
Perhaps one should conclude that having been proven wrong once, the FBI's
experts in this case are not reliable?
The original prosecutor also
bases his continued belief in Fain's guilt on the testimony of two jailhouse
informers. We all know how reliable their testimony is.
Death Penalty: Find An Innocent
In any event, I think the
Holy Grail of anti-death penalty work is to find a person incontrovertibly
innocent who was executed. There have been at least 96 instances
since 1973 of wrongfully convicted people set free before the states had a
chance to kill them. Since these are just the cases we know about
where a defendant was wrongfully convicted, surely there must have been
other such cases where -- because of a lack of outside intervention to prove
innocence -- the defendants were wrongfully executed as well.
Death penalty opponents are
often asked why such a case has not been found. The explanation
is that with their limited resources, death penalty opponents can't even
properly handle the cases of those still living, let alone delve into the
cases of those already executed.
Some wealthy, anti-death
penalty benefactor should, therefore, make an express grant for the purpose
of investigating the most promising cases where it might be proven that an
innocent person was wrongly executed.
Support for the death penalty
has been slowly eroding the past few years, based in part on all the cases
where DNA evidence proved innocent those about to be executed. If an
instance of actual wrongful execution could be documented, the death penalty
would take a much more significant dive in public support, perhaps enough to
get rid of it altogether.