Alabama column says state can’t be sure everyone on death row is guilty


Huntsville Times columnist David Person writes today that in light of the 200 DNA exonerations nationwide, Alabama should consider its death penalty "fatally flawed." Alabama is the only state in the U.S. that doesn't guarantee attorneys to death row inmates for every stage of appeal.

Thanks to DNA testing, we also know this is true of a growing number of those convicted of non-capital offenses as well. The most recent is Jerry Miller, who became the 200th person exonerated by DNA evidence on Monday.

The crime he didn't commit? The 1981 rape of a woman in a Chicago parking garage: Miller spent 25 years in prison because he was misidentified by two parking garage attendants. But Miller was lucky. The real rapist left DNA evidence on the woman's clothes, which led the Innocence Project to push for a test.

"Only 10 percent of serious felony cases, it is estimated, have any biological evidence which you can do DNA testing on and determine who's guilty or innocent," said Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, on Wednesday. "You have to wonder, how many mistaken identifications, false confessions, bad lab work, there are in those cases."

…We also don't know how many innocent people have been executed in Alabama. But because seven Death Row inmates have had their capital convictions overturned or have been completely exonerated since 1975, it's natural to wonder if at least one of the 35 who have been executed may have been innocent.

Read the full column here

. (The Huntsville Times, 4/27/07)

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