Thursday, June 26, 2008

Life Isn't Retroactive

The Supreme Court hasn't made that many decisions I feel strongly able to support, but in the decision yesterday to rescind death penalties for child rape, I totally agree. There is no going back on death. Convictions for all sorts of crime, even child rape, and even murder, have increasingly been overturned on grounds of DNA evidence. It happened in Collin County, suburban Dallas, yesterday.


A court threw out the conviction of a man infamously known as "Ashley's Killer" on Wednesday, weeks after prosecutors surprised defense attorneys with news of another suspect in the 1993 child slaying.

The Court of Criminal Appeal in Austin, as expected, set aside the guilty verdict and death sentence given to Michael Blair, upholding a lower-court ruling made last month.

The ruling comes less than a month after prosecutors acknowledged that DNA evidence does not implicate Blair and shows that another man, now deceased, is a plausible suspect in the girl's death.
(snip)
Blair was convicted largely on the strength of since-discredited testimony about hair and fibers found in his car, on a stuffed animal and on the girl's body that all allegedly matched, court records show. At the time of the slaying, Blair was on parole after serving only 18 months of a 10-year sentence for burglary and indecency with a child.

Subsequent testing was performed on male DNA found on the Plano girl's shoes and shirt, as well as on tissue taken from the victim's fingernails and hair. All of these DNA tests excluded Blair as the contributor, court records show.


The man was guilty of crimes but his death would have been an irreversible unjust punishment. We have to remember when judging anyone that there are pressures in the justice system, and in Dallas our former prosecutors were building a reputation very important to them, of being able to get convictions. We will never know all the ways they achieved those convictions, but we do know that many were wrongful ones.

Justice Kennedy also wrote that capital punishment for child rape presented specific problems, including the “special risks of unreliable testimony” by children and the fact that the crime often occurs within families. Families might be inclined to “shield the perpetrator from discovery” when the penalty is death, he said, leading to an increase in the problem of under-reporting of these crimes.

This is hardly the first time this blogger has discussed the death penalty. It is also far from the first time a death penalty has turned out to be a miscarriage of justice.

Capital punishment has been thoroughly discredited as findings increase that convictions are too often erroneous. Taking a life on the evidence of witnesses has too often been a tragedy carrying faults of a system to a conclusion that defies, instead of effects, justice.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous larry, dfh said...

And O'Bama took issue with the court's ruling. Change, biotches!

11:22 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Actually, my reading of Obama's comments was not that he opposed it but that he was of two minds about the crime/punishment relationship. If you note the case I cited in Collin County, the suburbs of Dallas, it turned out the convicted man actually was guilty of several crimes against children. Always hard to see some one vile being saved by technicalities.

3:07 AM  

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