May 2, 2008 — Diann Rust Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, issued the following statement today in response to today’s announced exoneration out of North Carolina:
“It’s been more than seven months since an execution occurred in the U.S. – the longest de facto moratorium in our country in 25 years. And today, just as executions are set to resume in the U.S., Levon “Bo” Jones becomes the 129th person to be freed from death row since 1976, after evidence of innocence emerged. He’s the eighth wrongly convicted death row inmate out of North Carolina alone. Nationally, there have been five death row exonerations since the current de facto moratorium began in late September. Jones is the second consecutive North Carolina man to be freed from death row after evidence of police misconduct was brought to light.
“It is therefore inappropriate — indeed, incredible — that executions are set to resume beginning next Tuesday in Georgia. Today I am reflecting on the fact that during the seven-month moratorium, states that are now gearing up to resume executions did absolutely nothing to assure that society’s ultimate sanction is fair or accurate.
“New Jersey is an example of the good that can come when states stop and assess. Legislators there during the past year held hearings on New Jersey’s death penalty system and ultimately decided to repeal it. Other states such as California and Tennessee also launched studies of their death penalty statutes.
“In contrast, states like Alabama and Texas sat on their hands – waiting for a signal from the U.S. Supreme Court that they could resume executions. And when the Court did rule, its conclusions did nothing to clean up the mismanagement and incompetence that is more routine than not in states carrying out executions. Mr. Jones spent 13 years on death row, and had he been an inmate in Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas or Virginia, it is quite likely he would be dead today – and the truth buried with him.
“This is proof positive that we don’t need to return to business as usual. States should suspend executions until they have examined their system and can assure us that innocent people are not at risk of execution.”
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