20 November 2009

on executions

NEW YORK -- A prison system official says a New York City man is free after spending nearly two decades behind bars for murder {My emphasis} before a judge declared him innocent.
Fernando Bermudez was released from the Sing Sing prison in Ossining at about 2:10 p.m. Friday. A Manhattan judge overturned Bermudez's 1992 conviction last week, saying it stemmed from unreliable witness testimony.
But Bermudez remained behind bars because he hadn't served a 27-month sentence in a federal drug case.
A federal judge on Thursday ordered that Bermudez be released at least until June 30 while his lawyers ask federal officials to credit his drug sentence as served. ...

I am asked from time to time, why I oppose the death penalty. I reply that living in Illinois where 13 of 26 death row inmates were found to be innocent, where two people were nearly executed for a crime Brian Dugan committed, where we have had a string of governors who are either themselves convicts or shortly may be, I have developed a mantra "We cannot do it right: we must not do it."

I do not know Mr. Bermudez. I suspect you do not either. Based on the article from which I quoted above, he is not someone I want to know. Even after his acquittal from a seventeen year old murder charge, he still faces prison for drug convictions. He is in short a poster boy candidate for abolishing capitol punishment. He is not someone who can spend his own influence and resources avoiding false conviction and he in fact suffered one.

In most States, a convict spends about twelve years on death row if I read correctly. But it took seventeen years for a court to finally determine that Mr. Bermudez did not commit murder.  It is bad enough that it took that long, suppose he had been executed five years ago!  It is not so far fetched, consider that no one spends a lot of resources on cases where the supposed killer has been executed.

It may be, albeit I doubt it, that all of the people executed in America or awaiting execution are guilty.  But the odds are against that.  We do make mistakes.  When possible those mistakes are rectified, but there is no reason to think we have not missed one or two.  And one or two are too many.

Simple observation and a cry for justice are enough to render the death penalty obsolete.  We simply must stop.


1 comment:

Christal said...

Wow!! I didn't know that many were found to be innocent on death row. I think I agree with you on this one!!

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