LifeLines - NCADP's Quarterly Newsletter
We've believed it for years. With at least 135 people freed from death row after evidence of their innocence emerged, it seemed inevitable that one day, news of an execution of an innocent person would emerge.
For many years, however, our strong suspicion that innocent people have been executed has been no more than that - simply a strong suspicion. Once an execution occurs, there historically has been little opportunity to reflect on what has transpired. Overburdened attorneys and advocates have always moved to stop the next execution, knowing that the line is growing and hard choices in favor of the living must be made. Research and fact-finding take time and resources. Officials and wrongdoers who control the crucial evidence and have long hidden or stubbornly ignored the truth continue doing so.
Death penalty supporters maintain "the system works" and that no innocent person has been proven to be executed. In 2006, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that there has not been "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 in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops."
Justice Scalia is wrong.
Following up on a handful of investigations spearheaded by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) with a group of committed cooperating attorneys, the Innocence Project, The Justice Project, and students at Columbia, Michigan and several other law schools, some of the nation's best investigative journalists and leading newspapers have recently exposed grave errors leading to the execution of innocent people.