Friday, November 2, 2012

Death penalty

I used to be in favor of the death penalty. My opinion has changed over the past few years: I am in favor of the death penalty in theory, but after seeing the innocence project and the Duke Lacrosse case, I am of the opinion that our legal system is too corrupt to ensure that we are not executing the innocent.

Maurice Patterson was convicted of murder in 2002 for a fight where the victim was stabbed 14 times. Three people witnessed the fight, fleetingly and in the dark, and a fourth witness claimed to have seen a man with blood on his hand hiding from the police. All four witnesses identified Maurice Patterson in a live lineup weeks after the attack, but they only testified regarding these identifications after being threatened with Contempt of Court.

A bloody knife was found near the scene and sent to Orchid Cellmark for DNA testing. STR test results excluded Patterson, indicating a mixture of the victim’s profile and an unknown profile. Comparison to the State CODIS DNA database revealed that the unknown profile belonged to a drug addict with a history of violence. Though the State Police Forensic Science Center had been notified that the sample included the victim’s blood, this information was never directly communicated to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors continued with the case against Patterson regardless of the exculpatory results.

Robert Wilcoxson and Kenneth Kagonyera served almost 10 years in North Carolina prisons for a murder they didn’t commit before a three-judge panel overturned their convictions on September 22, 2011, based on DNA evidence proving innocence.

In this case, a man was killed during a home invasion, and police managed to secure confessions from the two defendants. Three bandanas and two pairs of gloves were located on the side of the road near the Bowman residence and were collected by deputies as evidence in the case. The bandanas and gloves found near the crime scene were submitted for pre-trial DNA testing. Results excluded all six co-defendants, however this information was never turned over to Kagonyera or Wilcoxson’s attorneys.

Sure, we have DNA and such, but when the system is so corrupt that exculpatory evidence is "lost" or buried, we are executing the innocent. That makes us all as a society guilty of murder.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think it necessarily makes us all guilty of murder, but I feel it would make guilty the detectives, prosecutors and whoever else was involved in suppressing or destroying evidence of murder if someone was wrongfully executed.