Monday, October 29, 2007

Justice Must Not Be Blind, Deaf or Dumb

The view of death sentences which can easily be a mistake has spread into many of the legal community's deliberative bodies, and the ABA is speaking out on the subject, as well.

On Friday I posted about mistaken judgments that had led to long prison terms. These cases ruined lives, or large parts of lives, and they should not have happened.

Serious problems in state death penalty systems compromise fairness and accuracy in capital punishment cases and justify a nationwide freeze on executions, the American Bar Association says.

Problems cited in a report released Sunday by the group include: spotty collection and preservation of DNA evidence, which has been used to exonerate more than 200 inmates; misidentification by eyewitnesses; false confessions from defendants; and persistent racial disparities that make death sentences more likely when victims are white.

The report is a compilation of separate reviews done over the last three years of how the death penalty operates in eight states: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

The ABA said every state with the death penalty should review its execution procedures before putting anyone else to death.

The ABA, which takes no position on capital punishment, did not study lethal injection procedures that are under challenge across the nation. The procedures will be reviewed by the Supreme Court early next year. State and federal courts have effectively stopped most executions pending a high court decision.

The time has definitely come to take a hard look at the prospect that lives ended have not always been the lives of the criminals who committed the crimes condemned. Our system is imperfect, and judgements can be wrong.

Killing the innocent should be prevented by all the means we have and if any question can be raised, it should be.

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