The "Exonerated", the "Innocent" and the "Wrongfully Convicted",
as defined by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC)
This is a look at how well destroyed the "EXONERATED" and/or "INNOCENTS" list is and how it has been so deceptively used by the anti death penalty movement.
I discovered this deception in 1998 or 1999 and published an op/ed about it in 2000 in the Fort Worth Star Telegram.
ii) all charges were dropped
b) or they were given an absolute pardon by the governor based on new evidence of innocence.
Our justice system is the only objective source for making such a determination.
What total nonsense, as usual.
"Innocent until proven guilty" has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR LIST and you know it.
"Innocent until proven guilty" is a legal standard which only applies to the fact finders in a criminal case, be that the judge of jury.
It has no relevance to your DPIC exonerated or innocence list, which has been a source of intended deception for a decade.
Richard, how about being straight forward?
1) How many anti death penalty sites and how many media articles do you have documented evidence that you had them correct the perception that the DPIC "Innocence List" was dealing with actual innocents?
Zero, I suspect. If I am wrong, prove it.
2) How many of the cases "thrown out" had evidence thrown out which proved the defendant guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, in the prior trial?
4) Instead of your perverse definition of exonerated, have you noticed the real definition? It is
1 : to relieve of a responsibility
2 : to clear from accusation or blame
How many of the 138-139 were relieved of responsibility, accusation or blame, as opposed to a legal standard?
5) Try the same thing with your "Innocence List". Again, how many had zero connection to the murder, as opposed to your own definition of "innocence"?
The moral engine of the innocence-based argument for abolishing the death penalty is that we risk executing a person who DIDN'T DO IT. The question our citizens are interested in is factual guilt, not legalism: Do we have the right guy or not?
The notion that one needs to be God to know whether we have the right guy is preposterous. One need not be God, for example, to know that McVeigh did it. One need only pay minimal attention to the evidence. Mr. Dieter certainly knows this.
Of course there is a chance that we COULD execute an innocent person, since we are human beings.
The two best known examples are Kenneth McDuff and Clarence Ray Allen. At least a half dozen innocent people died because McDuff and Allen remained alive. Did those people not also have rights?
Let's cut through the fancy dance. To say that a person has been "exonerated" of mureder will be taken, and is intended to be taken (whatever the fine print disclaimer may be), as a statement that the person didn't do it. As Mr. Dieter meanderingly acknowledges through the fog of carefully chosen words, no such thing is true.
It has been 34 years and more than 1100 executions since the Supreme Court restored the death penalty, and NOT ONE SINGLE TIME has anyone proved in court, or come close to proving, that an innocent person has been executed. That being the case, it is a confession of weakness rather than a declaration of strength to continue to make these de facto claims of innocence.
Other comments have already shown how the DPIC’s so-called “strict and objective” criteria do not produce helpful or relevant results in terms of assessing the capital punishment system. To the extent that the public is concerned whether the prosecution has charged the actual perpetrator, the List is overly inclusive. A person is not “exonerated” or “innocent” because a jury has found that the prosecution did not prove the perpetrator was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is why the jury’s verdict is “not guilty” rather than “innocent “ or “exonerated”. The terms “exoneration” and “innocence” are never applied to such cases. However, the DPIC’s most recent comprehensive report states the following: “The failure to acknowledge the innocence of those who have been exonerated retards the search for the real perpetrator.” Thus, DPIC has promoted a misapprehension about the true meaning of these concepts and distorted the results of many of the cases on its List. For instance, the List continues to include “Jay C. Smith” who was freed after his triple murder conviction because of prosecutorial misconduct even though the courts have continued to express confidence in his guilt.
Also, the DPIC List and its methodology have been a subject of judicial controversy. Chief Justice Rehnquist cited the criticisms of the list in Herrera v. Collins. Justice Scalia expanded on that criticism in his recent concurring opinion in Kansas v. Marsh. Even a federal district court that was generously inclined toward the DPIC’s List found that many of the so-called exonerees were not “actually innocent.”
Mr. Dieter states: “We are merely reporting that in a great many cases the justice system convicted an individual and sentenced them to death, but when the process that arrived at that conclusion was reviewed, the conviction and sentence were completely thrown out. Surely, that should be a cause of concern in applying the death penalty.” Of course, it is a great concern when an innocent person is convicted and sentenced. No honest prosecutor would ever represent that this has not happened.
However, it is not a “cause of concern” that the legal process has done its work of reviewing judgments and reversing them for legal error. In those cases, the system has worked as it has intended. It is hardly a revelation that trials and juries are fallible. However, the public has supported capital punishment with full knowledge of that inherent risk.
Also, it is an exaggeration to state that “in great many cases” the conviction and sentence were “completely thrown out.” To begin with, the List includes cases in which the defendant was convicted and sentenced under old, defunct statutes that are not pertinent to examining our system today. However, there have been approximately 8,380 death judgments since 1973. A questionable list of 138 names during that 37 time span hardly represents a “great many cases.”
You write: "Why 'exonerated' needs to be used sparingly".
No, Michael. There is no need to use it sparingly.
There is a need to use it clearly and precisely, as opposed to being intentionally deceptive and nebulous.
For those of us, who have been active in the death penalty debate for a long time, it cannot be overstated how often and to what effect the DPIC "Innocence List" has been used by the media, government officials and anti death penalty folks and how this blatant deception has effected this debate.
Had the media done its job, this deception would have been stopped a decade ago, but it was impossible to get the media to do its job. They refused, with very rare exception.
There is no question what Dieter, the DPIC and virtually all anti death penalty folks/groups wanted the media and the public to accept and believe. It's been a successful deception for, at least 17 years.
Time to end it.
(LATER NOTE - Words in Capitalization are for my emphasis, dudley)
Innocence and the Death Penalty, 1993, DPIC
"V. CONCLUSION It is an inescapable fact of our criminal justice system that INNOCENT PEOPLE are too often convicted of crimes. Sometimes only many years later, in the course of a defendant's appeals, or as a result of extra-legal developments, new evidence will emerge which clearly demonstrates that the WRONG PERSON was prosecuted and convicted of a crime.
Americans are justifiably concerned ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY THAT AN INNOCENT PERSON MAY BE EXECUTED. Capital punishment in the United States today provides no reliable safeguards against this danger. Errors can and have been made repeatedly in the trial of death penalty cases because of poor representation, racial prejudice, prosecutorial misconduct, or simply the presentation of erroneous evidence. Once convicted, a death row inmate faces serious obstacles in convincing any tribunal that he is innocent."
"The cases discussed in this report are the ones in which INNOCENCE was uncovered before execution. "
"In the twenty-one-year span of the first report, there was an average of 2.5 releases of innocent defendants per year from 1973 to 1993. The 17 releases over the past three and a half years represents a pace of 4.8 releases per year, almost twice the pace of the previous report."
"For the original 48 cases, it took an average of approximately six and a half years between conviction and eventual release. With the 21 additional cases included in this report, the average time spent on death row before release is now about seven years. This length of time is important because both state and federal legislation in recent years will shorten the length of time death row inmates have before their execution. Currently, the average time between sentencing and execution is eight years5."
"If that time is cut in half, then THE TYPICAL INNOCENT DEFENDANT ON DEATH ROW WILL BE EXECUTED BEFORE IT IS DISCOVERED THAT A FATAL MISTAKE HAS BEEN MADE."
NOTE FROM SHARP - there is no question but that DPIC is discussing actually innocent people, here, because it is impossible to execute a legally innocent person.
"Ultimately, the issue of innocence, grounded in reports such as this, represents a crisis for the death penalty in America. The public’s tolerance for SACRIFICING INNOCENT LIVES for the sake of maintaining a demonstrably unfair government program with questionable benefit to society is noticeably ebbing. New voices are emerging to challenge the death penalty: judges, law enforcement officials, conservative commentators, and some legislators are discarding the former polarization of the issue as one between criminals and victims. Instead, people are noting that the injustices are often perpetrated by those mantled with the public trust, and that the victims are sometimes those condemned to death."
NOTE FROM SHARP - SACRIFICING INNOCENT LIVES can only mean executing the actually innocent, because it is impossible to execute a legally innocent person.
The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy
THE DEATH PENALTY: SAVING MORE INNOCENT LIVES