Willingham Case Highlights Fears of Executing Innocent People

Cameron Todd Willingham's last words were: "I have been persecuted 12 years for something I didn't do." And now, five years after he was executed by the state of Texas, Willingham is probably as close to an exoneration as he'll ever get. The blogs and news media have been filled with commentary about the revelation that Willingham was most likely innocent when he was executed, and it's renewing calls for an examination of the death penalty in this country.

In The Hill blog, John Feehery writes:

Without getting into all of the facts in this particular case, it is clear that we live with an imperfect justice system. The system makes mistakes. Wrong people are accused and convicted. Witnesses sometimes misremember the facts, and sometimes they lie for their own self-interest. Sometimes cops make mistakes, and sometimes prosecutors reach the wrong conclusions.

But the death penalty, when carried out, is always perfect. It always kills the target, and kills the target permanently. And once you kill the accused, you can't really turn back the clock. If the system turns out to be wrong, as it does on occasion, saying you are sorry doesn't do much good.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a new study by University of California, Santa Cruz, professor Craig Haney finds that support for the death penalty among Californians is down:

A majority of Californians still favor the death penalty, but their support has waned from 79% to 66% over the last two decades as fears of executing the wrongly convicted escalate, a researcher reported Tuesday.

…Support for the death penalty plunged to 26% when respondents were offered the alternative of guaranteed life imprisonment and the requirement that the offender work to pay restitution to victims and their families, Haney said.

Jonah Lehrer offered this fascinating meditation on the injustice of Willingham's execution in the Daily Dish:

These stories of a failed justice are important, and not just because they expose specific errors…Instead, I think these harrowing tales need to be told because they contradict a powerful moral intuition we all share, which can unfortunately lead us to turn a blind eye: Because we believe in justice, we ignore stories of injustice.

Finally, the Philadelphia Inquirer brought the argument back to present-day by comparing Willingham's case to that of Troy Davis:

Davis' and Willingham's cases again raise strong questions about capital punishment and whether it can ever be fairly administered, especially when the defendant is poor or a minority, like Davis, and statistically more likely to get a death sentence.

...The risk of a wrongful execution is simply too great to continue with capital punishment.

Davis's case was recently reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and sent back to a lower court for the evidentiary hearing he's been asking for all along. Hopefully Georgia will learn a lesson from Texas, and give Davis the chance at life that Willingham never had.

h/t: Steve Hall, StandDown

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Hey, guess what dummies! As soon as your idiot prez rams the BS health bill through we are going to start 'end of life counseling' within the prison system. Everyone on death row or serving a life sentence for killing someone is going night-night. Just think how fucking much money we could immediately start saving the tax payers (that would be ME and not you freeloading idiots)??
Are you idiots for real? Seriously?!


It's sad that an innocent man being executed may be what's needed to start the ball rolling on eliminating capital punishment. It's disgusting.


This is a tragedy which was waiting to happen. A few years back the Governor of Illinois realized the defects in the criminal justice system and put a hold on executions. That the majority of Californians favor the death penalty is unbelievable. Are we living in the dark ages? And the 1% doctrine of the previous administration didn't help matters.


I think they should bring back court house hangings I'm sure it would deter alot af crime and also it's cheaper than electrocution and lethal injection so we save money there also they should only get two appeals and they should have to be completed within 2 years if nothing new sorry about your luck buddy


You know whats wrong with the death penalty? We don't exercise it enough. We have people sitting on death row and in prisons that deserve to die for their crimes and never do ie Charles Manson and his crew OJ Simpson for another. But yet we persecute others who's wrongs were no where near as drastic. I say don't do the crime if you don't want the time. We as Americans need to start to show more support for the criminal justice system put in place by our ancestors. And less support for a president who is leading us into communism.

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So Admams defended the British troops in Boston- why don't you, in the same vein, defend the CIA agents associated with torture? They might be innocent, you know ?


Suppose you expose an agent and he is subsequently killed ? Suppose you expose as an agent an innocent person and they are injured or killed? The German left did this kind of stuff a few years back and it did lead to some deaths.


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eye 4 eye pay the price by law or by persons


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