On Death Penalty, Confidence Does Not Replace Truth

Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. lists the names of some death row inmates who were exonerated, including one posthumously.

A protester's sign before Troy Davis execution (Getty Images)
A protester's sign before Troy Davis execution (Getty Images)

In his Miami Herald column, Leonard Pitts Jr. calls the death a penalty a flimsy edifice erected on the shaky premise that authorities always get it right. To highlight his point, he provides a haunting list of several inmates who were exonerated and released from death row. It was too late for one man.

2000: Frank Lee Smith is posthumously exonerated — he’d died 11 months earlier — 14 years after being convicted of raping and murdering an eight-year-old girl. The eyewitnesses were wrong.

2001: Charles Fain is exonerated and set free 18 years after being sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a young girl. The scientific testimony was wrong.

2002: Ray Krone is exonerated and set free 10 years after being sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a bar worker. The scientific testimony was wrong.

2003: John Thompson is exonerated and set free 18 years after being sentenced to death for murder. The prosecutors hid exculpatory scientific evidence and the eyewitnesses were wrong.

2004: Ryan Matthews is exonerated and set free five years after being sentenced to death for killing a convenience store owner. The eyewitnesses were wrong.

2008: Kennedy Brewer is exonerated and set free seven years after being sentenced to death for killing his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter. The scientific testimony was wrong.

2010: Anthony Graves is exonerated and set free 18 years after being sentenced to death for the murder of an entire family. The sole eyewitness — who was himself the murderer — lied. …

There are literally hundreds, of men and even a few women who have been exonerated and set free after being sentenced to death, life, 25, 60, even 400 years for awful things they did not do. I could make a longer list, but space is at a premium and there is more that needs saying here.

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