Release of 100th Innocent From Death Row Underscores Urgent Need for Moratorium, ACLU Says

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
April 9, 2002 12:00 am

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Statement of Diann Rust-Tierney, Director
ACLU Capital Punishment Project


WASHINGTON–The release of Ray Krone, who spent over two years on Arizona’s death row for a crime he did not commit, should be a wake-up call for elected officials and state leaders all across this country.

Krone is the 100th person in the nation to be released from death row with proof of his innocence. He is the second Arizona convict to be exonerated by DNA evidence, and the first after facing execution. Whether you support or oppose the death penalty, this is unacceptable. It is time to recognize the magnitude of the problems plaguing our nation’s death penalty system and implement a nationwide moratorium until these problems are adequately addressed.

Our death penalty system is making too many mistakes. We have not adequately addressed the problems created by false or mistaken testimony, prosecutorial misconduct, police misconduct, faulty expert testimony and jailhouse snitches. Further, ineffective and incompetent lawyers jeopardize their clients’ chances at a fair trial when they don’t do their jobs.

We have a double standard of justice in America: one for the rich and another for the poor. A rich man can hire a lawyer who will investigate the facts and skillfully prepare and present his case. Poor man’s justice too often means a lawyer who literally and figuratively sleeps on the job and presents a case without investigation or adequate preparation.

In the past ten years alone, 47 people with proof of innocence were released from death rows all over the country. The systemic problems that send innocent people to death row are not isolated to one, two or even five states. Of the 38 states with the death penalty, 24 have had to release people from death row. Further, in many of the cases where people have been released from death row, multiple error factors – not just one mistake – were to blame. Too many errors in too many states point to too great a chance of executing an innocent person.

Now is the time for the governors, the state legislatures and other elected officials in death penalty states to take a fresh look at the death penalty. A system that narrowly avoided executing 100 innocent people cannot be called successful or equitable.

There is no “quick fix” solution. But until a solution is reached, our nation’s governors and state leaders must call for a moratorium on all executions to allow adequate time to explore ways of ensuring that innocent persons are not being executed and that the system is being implemented equitably for everyone.

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