Absolute Death with a Reasonable Doubt.
James Adams murdered, Mr. Adams was from Florida. William Henry Anderson, murdered. Everett Appellate, Thomas Bambrick, Charles Becker, Frank Cirofici, from New York, dead at 34, Roosevelt Collins, Sie Dawson, Vance Gardner, Will Johnson, Richard Bruno Hauptmann, Joseph Hillstrom, Harold Lamble and Charles Lewis Tucker. All of these are the names of murder victims (Radlet et al.; Bedau, Radlet 21-179). Dead! Their right to carry on life in the pursuit of happiness has been taken away. No more spending time with their families, going to work, taking a vacation, or going to school; these simple things we all may take for granted are no longer options for these people. Who knows, maybe a few left behind families with children, wives, parents. All of these lives changed forever. The most upsetting thing about this loss of life is that these perfectly innocent people whose lives were taken still have their killers walking free, alive and well.
What justice is this you ask? What about victims' rights? To fully avenge the unnecessary deaths of these and many other innocent victims, we have but only one choice. Abolish the Death Penalty! These men, you see, have been proven innocent after their unnecessary and unjust executions. When it comes to taking someone's life with capital punishment the "reasonable doubt" system is terribly flawed. We as a people should eliminate the system of capital punishment until the day that such an enormous and irreversible verdict can be handed out with an absolute certainty.
In 1984, Earl Washington was convicted of murdering a 19-year-old girl and sentenced to die (Frontline: Four Cases). Later it was found that police led Mr. Washington, who had an IQ of 69, into confessing. Later in his trial there was enough evidence to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and enough so that he should pay the ultimate price, death. In 1993, Virginia Governor Wilder offered life in prison rather than death to Mr. Washington. In June 2000, Governor Jim Gilmore ordered DNA testing and Earl Washington was eliminated as a possible perpetrator of the murder. From the period of 1984-2000, Washington sat on death row, with reasonable doubt, Mr. Washington we are sorry! In October 1993, a subcommittee of the United States Senate concluded: "Judging by past experience, a substantial number of death row inmates are indeed innocent and there is a high probability that some of them will be executed"(Frontline: Total System Failure). Given this inquiry from our legislature, we still try to speed up the system and kill more people, rather than prove their guilt with an absolute certainty; remember that with reasonable doubt they probably could be guilty.
In Virginia, on February 6, 1985, Joseph Roger O'Dell was arrested for the murder, rape and sodomy of Helen Schratner; he was convicted one and a half years later largely on blood evidence (Innocothers: O'Dell). Blood evidence only separates people into groups and then rules out those groups of people. Whereas, because DNA is a perfect map of an individual's genetic print, proving innocence or guilt now becomes an absolute certainty. This was a most upsetting case because the court system that is set up to protect this country's innocent people knowingly executed an innocent man because of a flawed system. Virginia law says, "Any evidence found after 21 days is inadmissible in proving the innocence of a convicted person." The State of Virginia had in its possession the DNA evidence that proved that the man they had convicted could not have committed the crime. On July 12, 1997, Joseph O'Dell was murdered by capital punishment; we should all feel safer now.
People are still being murdered by our system and we are consciously making the decision to let these horrendous acts happen. As recently as the year 2000, Texas Governor George W. Bush would not grant a stay of execution for Gary Graham. Graham was convicted largely on the testimony of one eyewitness who saw him through her car window for a few seconds while driving by from 30-40 feet away. Two other witnesses at the scene said they saw the assailant and knew that Graham was not the killer (Innocent Others: Gary Graham). These second two witnesses were never interviewed, by the way, by Graham's obviously inept court appointed attorney. Gary Graham, murdered.
Technology now exists to be able to exonerate the innocent people who are on death row and to reaffirm the condemnation of the guilty. Until our government is able to effectively legislate the use of this technology, we should not use the death penalty as a sentencing option. Let us prove that all executed prisoners are guilty with an absolute certainty before we carry out their punishment. We may then carry out our greatest form of criminal sentencing, capital punishment, with an absolute certainty and protect the lives of the innocent.
Works Cited Radlet, Michael L., et al. In Spite of Innocence: Erroneous Executions in Capital Cases. Boston: Northern University Press, 1992 Bedau, Hugo Adam and Radlet, Michael L.. Miscarriages of Justice in Potentially Capital Cases. Stanford Law Review 40, 1987 Frontline: The Case For Innocence: Four Cases. Earl Washington. 13 February 2001. Frontline: The Case For Innocence: A Total System Failure. Assessing the Danger of Mistaken Executions. 13 February 2001. Death Penalty Info. Joseph O'Dell. 13 February 2001. Death Penalty Info. Gary Graham. 13 February 2001.