|A death chamber gurney|
According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) for every ten individuals who have been executed since 1976, one person has been set free. These, to me, are pretty shocking statistics and make me think how many innocent people have actually been wrongly executed. Below are several cases of people who have managed to be walk away from death row.
|McCollum and Brown|
These mentally-retarded half brothers were coerced into confessing to the murder and rape of an 11-year-old girl in 1983. Both received the death sentence, although Leon Brown later had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. Henry Lee McCollum spent thirty years on death row before DNA evidence linked the murder to another man - who was in prison for a similar crime. In 2014, Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown were completely exonerated and released. Before it was found that McCollum was actually innocent, a Supreme Court judge referred to McCollum's 'crime' as the worse of the worse and the reason North Carolina still needed the death penalty.
Anthony Graves was sentenced to death in 1994 for allegedly being an accomplice to the murders of Bobbie Davis, her daughter, Nicole and her four grandchildren. There was absolute no physical evidence found to tie Graves to the scene of the crime. In fact, his whole trial relied on the testimony of the 'other man', Robert Carter. In 2000, Carter - who had also been sentenced to death for the murders - confessed all before he was executed. He admitted he had lied about Anthony Graves' involvement. It took another six years before Graves would get a retrial when it was revealed prosecutors during the original trial had deliberately withheld evidence that was favourable to the defence. There was also evidence to show that the prosecution had used false testimony from witnesses. After 18-years in prison, 16 of which had been spent in solitrary confinement - Anthony Graves was released from prison. Today, he plays an active role in helping others potentially locked up for crimes they did not commit. He travels the country sharing his story, as well as serving on the advisory board of the TCADP.
Convicted of the brutal murders of a newly-wed couple in 1986, Randy Steidl was sentenced to death. After spending 17-years in prison, 12 of those on death row, Steidl was exonerated of the crime and released. This was due to evidence of police misconduct and fabrication of evidence/testimony. A retrial revealed there was NO evidence to link Randy Steidl to the murders and his release was ordered. Randy Steidl has been an important voice in the movement to abolish the death penalty. He certainly played an important role in the effort to repeal the death penalty in Illionois in 2011.
These are not all the cases, just the ones that stood out to me. Surely, the fact that there is a high number of exonerations is the sign of a flawed system. Spending any amount of time in prison when you are innocent is wrong, however there is no coming back for someone who is wrongfully executed. So what do you think? are you of the opinion that just one life lost to a 'mistake' is enough to abolish the death penalty? Or do you believe that, while mistakes will be made, it is necessary for the 'greater good'?