Two Recent Exonerations Bring the Number of Death Row Exonerees to 135

On Thursday, July 9th, Herman Lindsey of Florida became the 135th death row exoneree since 1973 after the Florida Supreme Court unanimously ordered his freedom. The Court determined that there was not enough evidence to convict him of murdering a Fort Lauderdale pawnshop worker in 1994. Lindsey’s exoneration was the 23rd in Florida since the reinstatement of the death penalty. The court ruled that the Broward County prosecutors needed to show there is “a reasonable and moral certainty that the accused and no one else committed the offense charged. It is not sufficient that the facts create a strong probability of, and be consistent with guilt. They must be inconsistent with innocence.”

Only three days earlier, Ronald Kitchen was exonerated in Illinois when the state’s Attorney General dropped all charges against him. Kitchen and a co-defendant had been convicted of a 1988 murder, and Kitchen was sentenced to death. Kitchen confessed to the crime after being subject to interrogation by a police unit that used torturous tactics against suspects.

Kitchen’s case is yet another exoneration linked to disgraced former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. Kitchen had claimed that detectives under Burge’s command coerced him into confessing to the murders through torture, including hitting him in the head with a telephone, punching him in the face,striking him in the groin, and kicking him. Years after Kitchen’s conviction, Police Commander Burge was fired after the Police Department Review Board ruled that he had used torture. Burge currently awaits trial on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury in relation to a civil suit regarding the torture allegations against him.

Additionally, the case against Kitchen was weak at best, lacking physical evidence and with the prosecution’s reliance on a dubious key witness. Kitchen served 21 years prior to his release.

Kitchen’s exoneration was Illinois’ 20th death-row exoneration. Florida and Illinois rank first and second in the United States, respectively, in death-row exonerations. Last week’s exonerations bring to four the number of death-row exonerations in the last two months. In mid-May, Paul House of Tennessee and Daniel Wade Moore of Alabama were also exonerated within three days of each other.

In 2007, Michael McCormick of Tennessee was found not guilty in a new trial after fighting his conviction for 20 years.

All of these cases highlight the grave risks of executing innocent people, risks that will persist in any human and thus imperfect system. With alternatives like life without parole, why do we continue to insist on the death penalty? How many innocent people have already been executed in this country because mistakes were made? Enough is enough.

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2 Responses

  1. dudleysharp says:

    Let's be honest.The 135 death row "innocence" scam Re: fact checking issues, on innocence and the death penalty. It is very important to take note that the 135 exonerated from death row is a blatant scam, easily uncovered by fact checking. Richard Dieter, head of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) and DPIC have produced the claims regarding the exonerated and innocents released from death row list. The scam is that DPIC just decided to redefine what exonerated and innocence mean according to their own perverse definitions. How Dieter and DPIC define what "exonerated" or "innocent" means. ". . . (DPIC) makes no distinction between legal and factual innocence. " 'They're innocent in the eyes of the law,' Dieter says. 'That's the only objective standard we have.' " That is untrue, of course. We are all aware of the differences between legal guilt and actual guilt and legal innocence (not guilty) and actual innocence, just as the courts are. Furthermore, there is no finding of actual innocence, but it is "not guilty". Dieter knows that we are all speaking of actual innocence, those cases that have no connection to the murder(s). He takes advantage of that by redefining exonerated and innocence. Dieter "clarifies" the three ways that former death row inmates get onto their "exonerated" by "innocence" list. "A defendant whose conviction is overturned by a judge must be further exonerated in one of three ways: he must be acquitted at a new trial, or the prosecutor must drop the charges against him, or a governor must grant an absolute pardon." None establishes actual innocence. DPIC has " . . . included supposedly innocent defendants who were still culpable as accomplices to the actual triggerman." DPIC: "There may be guilty persons among the innocents, but that includes all of us." Good grief. DPIC wishes to apply collective guilt of capital murder to all of us. Dieter states: "I don't think anybody can know about a person's absolute innocence." (Green). Dieter said he could not pinpoint how many are "actually innocent" — only the defendants themselves truly know that, he said." (Erickson) Or Dieter won't assert actual innocence in 1, 135 or 350 cases. He doesn't want to clarify a real number with proof of actual innocence, that would blow his entire deception. Or, Dieter declare all innocent: "If you are not proven guilty in a court of law, you're innocent." (Green) Dieter would call Hitler and Stalin innocent. Those are his "standards". And that is the credibility of the DPIC.Everyone knows this debate is about the number of actually innocent people sent to death row and how that effects the probability of executing an actual innocent.By definition, we cannot execute a legally innocent person. contd

  2. dudleysharp says:

    contdFor fact checking. 1. "Case Histories: A Review of 24 Individuals Released from Death Row", Florida Commission on Capital Cases, 6/20/02, Revised 9/10/02 at 83% error rate in "innocent" claims. 2. "Is 'the innocence list' an appropriate name?", 1/19/03FRANK GREEN, TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Dieter admits they don't discern between legal innocence and actual innocence. One of Dieter's funnier quotes;"The prosecutor, perhaps, or Dudley Sharp, perhaps, thinks they're still guilty because there was evidence of their guilt, but that's a subjective judgment." Yep, "EVIDENCE OF GUILT", can't you see why Dieter would think they were innocent? And that's how the DPIC works. 3. The Death of Innocents: A Reasonable Doubt,New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,national legal correspondent for The NY Times "To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . ". That is out of the DPIC claimed 119 "exonerated", at that time, for a 75% error rate. NOTE: It's hard to understand how an absolute can have a differential of 33%. I suggest the "to be sure" is, now, closer to 25. 4. CRITIQUE OF DPIC LIST ("INNOCENCE:FREED FROM DEATH ROW"), Ward Campbell, 5. "The Death Penalty Debate in Illinois", JJKinsella,6/2000, 6.THE DEATH PENALTY – ALL INNOCENCE ISSUES, Dudley Sharp–the-death-penalty.aspx Origins of "innocence" fraud, and review of many innocence issues 7. "Bad List", Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, 9/16/ How bad is DPIC? 8. "Not so Innocent", By Ramesh Ponnuru,National Review, 10/1/ DPIC from bad to worse. Dudley Sharp, Justice Matterse-mail, 713-622-5491,Houston, Texas Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author. A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

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