We have had the death penalty in this country ever since its inception. So is it time to change? I believe that the debate over the death penalty touches on the some of the fundamental questions about why we have a justice system. Is the purpose of a justice system to protect the public or to seek revenge for the wronged? So, does the justice system need to balance these two competing interests? If the purpose of the justice system is to rectify some injustice that has been perpetrated on a person or family, I would suggest that there is no way to fix that wrong. If a loved one is been taken from you, there’s no way to bring that person back. There is no way to right that wrong.
I would also ask whether a “civilized” society should put its own citizens to death. If a society can put its own citizens to death, then under what circumstances is that okay?
From Outside the Beltway:
The Texas Observer takes note of the case of a man executed in Texas more than a decade ago who quite possibly may have been innocent:
Claude Jones always claimed that he wasn’t the man who walked into an East Texas liquor store in 1989 and shot the owner. He professed his innocence right up until the moment he was strapped to a gurney in the Texas execution chamber and put to death on Dec. 7, 2000. His murder conviction was based on a single piece of forensic evidence recovered from the crime scene—a strand of hair—that prosecutors claimed belonged to Jones.
But DNA tests completed this week at the request of the Observer and the New York-based Innocence Project show the hair didn’t belong to Jones after all. The day before his death in December 2000, Jones asked for a stay of execution so the strand of hair could be submitted for DNA testing. He was denied by then-Gov. George W. Bush.
A decade later, the results of DNA testing not only undermine the evidence that convicted Jones, but raise the possibility that Texas executed an innocent man. The DNA tests—conducted by Mitotyping Technologies, a private lab in State College, Pa., and first reported by the Observer on Thursday—show the hair belonged to the victim of the shooting, Allen Hilzendager, the 44-year-old owner of the liquor store.
Because the DNA testing doesn’t implicate another shooter, the results don’t prove Jones’ innocence. But the hair was the only piece of evidence that placed Jones at the crime scene. So while the results don’t exonerate him, they raise serious doubts about his guilt
This wouldn’t be the first case of a Texas execution being called into question. Last year, an arson expert pretty much definitely established that the 2004 execution of Cameron Tood Willinghman was based on faulty expert witness testimony:
In a withering critique, a nationally known fire scientist has told a state commission on forensics that Texas fire investigators had no basis to rule a deadly house fire was an arson — a finding that led to the murder conviction and execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.
The finding comes in the first state-sanctioned review of an execution in Texas, home to the country’s busiest death chamber. If the commission reaches the same conclusion, it could lead to the first-ever declaration by an official state body that an inmate was wrongly executed.
Indeed, the report concludes there was no evidence to determine that the December 1991 fire was even set, and it leaves open the possibility the blaze that killed three children was an accident and there was no crime at all — the same findings found in a Chicago Tribune investigation of the case published in December 2004.