Murder vs. execution: One in 25 death row inmates found innocent


By Kylie Gorski

I have done a lot of research regarding the death penalty in the United States.

I could easily bore you with figures that show defense court bills far exceeding the cost of housing un-executed inmates or the disproportionate amount of African American men on death row that expose racism within our justice system.

I could even discuss the ineffectiveness of supposedly “instant” executionary methods.

But, I won’t, because you’ve read or heard all of this before.

My guess is that if you’ve ever witnessed a monstrous crime against an innocent child, for example, you probably felt satisfied when the perpetrator was taken from this world via lethal injection, electrocution or firing squad.

Instead, I will attempt to appeal to your humanity, nothing more and nothing less.

I cannot relate to this feeling of satisfaction. Normally, it would be asked of me to be impartial.

But you’ve opened your papers or your browsers to the Opinions section. That means that I will not restrain my distaste for the practice of execution in the United States.

I am of the mind that execution is a synonym for murder and nothing more.

I do not believe that prisoners guilty of any crime, no matter how horrific, should be put to death.

This makes our justice system no better than the criminals themselves, in my opinion. I’m aware that this is a very absolutist standpoint, and I am aware that it is an unpopular one.

However, the new statistic regarding the multitude of innocent human beings on death row in our country should be something that makes all of us, absolutist or otherwise, concerned with the death penalty or, at the very least, concerned with the liberalism applied to putting humans to death.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, recently published a statistic that stated one in every 25 death row inmates is likely innocent.

For some of you, it is the amount and frequency of this that concerns you. Perhaps you believe that this shows ineffectiveness and laziness in our justice system.

But for others, myself included, it’s concerning that anyone, especially one who is innocent, is being killed. It wouldn’t matter to you whether the statistic were one out of every 1,000 inmates.

So, I would like to put those of you in the former group to a challenge.

You are, presumably, innocent of any crime worthy of death by human or common law.

Imagine that the system, for whatever reason, in which you had put so much faith had persecuted you.

Now, despite never having committed the crime of which you were accused, you were eating your last meal. When you were finished, two men came to shackle you.

You could barely stand because of the weakness in your knees, and your meal was threatening to come up past your stomach, which now seemed firmly pressed into your throat.

Part of you still hoped that someone would absolve you at the last minute. But they laid you down and stuck thick needles in your arms.

You fell asleep, but not entirely. You tried to scream to tell them you were still awake, but you couldn’t, and then you felt like you were drowning — not in water, but in something that burned, like gasoline or ethanol.

You weren’t sure what would happen next.

Based on the new statistic, especially if you are a man or a person of color, this is not as unlikely a scenario as you might have previously thought.

I wish I could say that this new statistic surprised me, but after having been an activist on behalf of the West Memphis Three for over four years, it did not.

I wish to leave you with a story of three young boys, as it is the death row case I am most informed of.

In 1994, three little boys were raped and murdered in the small Arkansas town of West Memphis, but they are not the victims of which I speak. When the police couldn’t find the true murderer, they cried, “Witch!”

Three outcast, teenage boys were accused of the murder.

They wore black, they listened to Metallica and they had a penchant for drawing pentagrams, but they weren’t murderers — they were simply punks.

And, yet, with either completely falsified or forced evidence, two of the boys were sentenced to life in prison, and the third was put on death row at only eighteen years old.

If you believe that this is simply the babbling or propaganda of an extremist liberal, I urge you to watch the HBO film about the trial, which is entitled Paradise Lost.

The film does nothing more than document the trial, and from its footage, you can draw your own conclusions.

Does supporting a human being’s execution, or even simply allowing it with silence and inaction, make you any less guilty than the criminal himself?

Recently, all three boys were freed, but only because the visibility the film created incited the support of many famous musicians.

There are still many innocent boys in many small towns being wrongfully convicted and sent to death row.

Without this type of visibility, the convicted boys simply become one in 25.



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