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127 Death Row Exonerations...and Counting

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April 10, 2008

On Monday, Capital Punishment Project Director John Holdridge wrote on HuffingtonPost that even proponents of the death penalty should support a moratorium when you consider the high number of exonerations that have already taken place. John also takes issue with capital punishment advocates who have attempted to skew the definition of “innocent,” when describing those who have been exonerated:

One problem with this claim is that few Americans would agree with Mr. Marquis’s narrow understanding of what it means to be “innocent.” In 2005 testimony before Congress, Mr. Marquis submitted a document which denied that my former client, Michael Ray Graham, and his co-defendant Albert Burrell were released from Louisiana’s death row because they were innocent. The author of the document claimed that they were released “only because there was insufficient evidence of guilt.” In fact, Graham and Burrell were released after the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office informed a court that there was “a total lack of credible evidence linking Graham and/or Burrell to the crime.”

If a lack of credible evidence doesn’t point to innocence, then what can?

John concludes that either abolition or a moratorium on the death penalty to study how to fix the flaws in our criminal justice system are the only two ways to deal the reality that we may be executing innocent people. Either abolition or a moratorium, he writes: “The moral stakes are simply too high – both for the innocent people wasting away on death row and for the society that put them there.”

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