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Blackberry's avatar

What percentage of people executed are innocent?

Asked by Blackberry (29346 points ) February 14th, 2012

I was looking at the last words of people before they were executed and came across this.

If that guy is innocent, that’s pretty messed up. Here’s a list of many other last words.

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9 Answers

marinelife's avatar

From The Death Penalty Information Center

“There is no way to tell how many of the over 1,000 people executed since 1976 may also have been innocent. Courts do not generally entertain claims of innocence when the defendant is dead. Defense attorneys move on to other cases where clients’ lives can still be saved. Some cases with strong evidence of innocence include:

Carlos DeLuna Texas Conviction: 1983, Executed: 1989
Ruben Cantu Texas Convicted: 1985, Executed: 1993
Larry Griffin Missouri Conviction: 1981, Executed: 1995
Joseph O’Dell Virginia Conviction: 1986, Executed: 1997
David Spence Texas Conviction: 1984, Executed: 1997
Leo Jones Florida Convicted: 1981, Executed: 1998
Gary Graham Texas Convicted: 1981, Executed: 2000,
Claude Jones Texas Convicted 1989, Executed 2000
Cameron Willingham Texas Convicted: 1992, Executed: 2004

Also Noted – Post-humous pardons and new information about people who may have been wrongfully executed prior to 1976.”

sinscriven's avatar

Yesterday I read about Johnny Frank Garrett, who because of the nature of the alleged crime, suffered a massive miscarriage of justice on such cluster**** propotions that the city of Amarillo threatened to sue the family if they pursued to try to prove his innocence that he maintained until death:

”“I’d like to thank my family for loving me and taking care of me. And the rest of the world can kiss my everloving ass, because I’m innocent.””

SpatzieLover's avatar

Too many for me to morally agree to execution unless it is known to be true.
And even then, I have an issue with it, but that’s not for Flutherland

missingbite's avatar

I think the way we use the death penalty is totally wrong. With that said, I do believe there is a place for it in today’s society. What is really wrong with the justice system is the way we handle much lower crime criminals.

Jail should not be “easy” and people should be afraid to go to jail. Unfortunately, many criminals today aren’t afraid of incarceration and in some cases are treated better than they have it on their own. Sad really but true.

Zaku's avatar

Well, Texas, and lately especially governor Rick Perry (former Republican 2012 presidential hopeful) sure like to rack ‘em up, and sure don’t like to hear about exonerating evidence, e.g.:

Cameron Todd Willingham

Rob Will

Hank Skinner

Also Georgia’s execution last year of Troy Davis comes immediately to mind.

Here are some numbers about executions, although it’s hard to know exactly how many are innocent.

Too many, I say.

flutherother's avatar

There have been 8812 executions in the United States since 1900 and at least 23 of them were innocent which is 0.26% of the total. Considering the number of executions carried out in America I thought they would have been better at it than this .

linguaphile's avatar

The last statements nearly made me throw up. I am extremely sensitive to false accusations or even miscarriages of justice towards myself or others—the emotion makes me physically sick. :( I barely can teach “The Crucible” for that reason.

One innocent person executed is too many. Agatha Chrisite herself said something along those lines—it’s not the guilty she feels sorry for, but the falsely accused.

Jaxk's avatar

There was an excellent book “The Innocent Man” by John Grisham. He’s an excellent writer and this was his first foray into non-fiction. The main problem is that prosecutors are incentivized to win rather than to seek justice. They are gauged by how many convictions and length of sentences. So they misplace exculpatory evidence or use very questionable tactics or witnesses. Even if your able to prove your innocence, you’re tainted for life and financially ruined.

If you are guilty of Murder, you plead guilty for a reduced sentence (or at least not the death penalty. If you plead not-guilty, those are the ones that get the death penalty. That’s why you see the Green River killer (killed over 50 women) with life in prison while very questionable cases are put to death.

I used to be in favor of the death penalty but have changed my mind. It seems the wrong people are put to death. The most heinous killers get life, while the questionable cases get death. It’s a travesty. There have been 140 people released from death row, fully exonerated. There is no way to tell how many were executed unfairly.

Paradox25's avatar

It is impossible to say since executed prisoners are considered water under the bridge by the majority of society and the justice system. It probably wouldn’t be in the best interests of the state and death penalty proponents to provide the answer to your question either. As was mentioned above well over 100 death row inmates have been exonerated, and these are just the cases that we know of. We also know that over 35,000 inmates have been executed in the United States alone just after the beginning of the twentieth century (not counting those executed before that). I have read about enough other questionable cases where if I had to rely on probability I could likely add at least twice the amount of death row inmates to that list of exonerated former death row inmates.

I used to be a supporter of the death penalty myself but for the same reasons as described above I now strongly oppose it. In a justice system where money, fame and power can definitely buy justice, or at least determine which capital case convictions warrant life or death, I just can’t support the death penalty anymore. It also seems that because of the money/fame factor that there are more questionable cases where the convicted have been given the death penalty. Also as a result of fame/power/money many of the more obvious cases of guilty defendents do not even get convicted, or at least do not receive a death sentence.

There is another major reason why I oppose the death penalty, the incentive that prosecutors have to get convictions rather than to seek justice, like a user described above me as well. Prosecutors and judges get votes by conviction ratios and even brag about these when running for election/re-elections. Prosecutors and judges often brag about how ‘tough’ they are on crime, not by how fair and humble they are. Another thing to note here is that it takes about (on average) 14 years to execute an American inmate but it takes on average 17 years to exonerate a wrongly convicted death row inmate.

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