Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How Many Exonerations Will it Take?

How many innocent people must we put on death row before we realize our system is flawed? How long should we run the risk of executing an innocent person before we abolish a system that has lost a considerable amount of support over the years?

The recent exoneration of Joe D’Ambrosio on January 23, 2012 marked the 140th exoneration since 1973. Of the 140, six have come from Pennsylvania, but 219 people still remain on death row in the state.

In 2011, Gussie Vann of Tennessee was the 139th exoneree when Senior Judge Donald P. Harris overturned Vann’s 1994 conviction. This was yet another example of ineffective assistance of council. In Vann’s case, the Judge ruled, in part, that the defense attorney’s inadequate preparation allowed Vann to be convicted based on ““inaccurate, exaggerated and speculative medical testimony."

If we have exonerated 140 people since 1973, how many of the 3,222 people currently on death row are innocent? And more importantly, how many of the 1,279 people were, in fact, not guilty of the crimes for which they were sentenced to die?

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