The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Recently though, even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers — The New York Times — has recognized that deception.

“To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . “. ‘ (1)

This when death penalty opponents are claiming the release of 118 “innocents” from death row. The deceptions of those opponents were not broadly exposed, earlier, because most in the media — like Dennis Rogers —  had forgotten to fact check — death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their “exonerated” or “innocents” list.
A few of us have been publicly and actively exposing these deceptions, at least since 1998. The acknowledgment of this problem is just now being readily accepted — “To be sure”.

I believe that one would have a hard time finding 20-25 “categorically innocent” people released from death row, who were prosecuted during the modern US death penalty, after 1972, post Furman v Georgia.
During that same, post Furman period, about 7500 have been sentenced to death. We now know of a 0.3% error rate (0.4%, using Liptak’s lower number) for sentencing actually innocent people to death.
None were executed — meaning both trial and appeals have seen a 100% record in executing the guilty and sparing the innocent.
Appeals are an inescapable part of the death penalty system.  Appeals review claims of both legal and actual innocence errors.
We all know and, reluctantly, accept that a certain percentage of actual innocents will be convicted. Locating actual innocents is the original foundation for appeals.
Obviously, the pre trial and trial portion of the system did not work properly in those 0.3-0.4% of cases.
However, could anyone have predicted a system that was 99.6-99.7% accurate in finding actual guilt and raising that number to 100%,  on appeal, by sparing actual innocents the carrying out of that sentence?
12-13 of the released cases are DNA exonerations, although I think one of those had multiple offenders and is, therefore, not conclusive. 
If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can reasonable conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 7500 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8-99.9% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system.
Have there been some horrible, inexcusable cases? Yes. Tragically all professions have that.
Does the death penalty system try to find and remedy those cases? Yes.
Based upon the accuracy of the actually guilty convicted and the appellate record of identifying actual innocents, is there a more accurate criminal justice practice in the world? Maybe not.

Why would any prosecutor say that this is proof that the system work.

We have our answer.

Furthermore, without the death penalty, the evidence is clear that many more innocents are at risk.
There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.
Is execution an enhanced incapacitator?
Living murderers are infinitely more likely to harm and murder,again, than are executed murderers.  Who would have known?
Is the death penalty a deterrent?
7 recent studies, as well as the anecdotal evidence, say yes. Is there any negative consequence that doesn’t deter some folks. Of course not.
Your choice.
Spare murderers lives and sacrifice more innocents. Execute murderers and spare more innocents.
Full report –  All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.

(1)  “The Death of Innocents’: A Reasonable Doubt”, New York Times, Adam Liptak, 1/23/05,

Copyright 2005
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, BBC 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.
Pro death penalty sites
    (from Sweden)

My focus has been on violent crime issues and what can be done, within the criminal justice and legislative systems, to lessen injury to the innocent and to prosecute the guilty.  To accomplish that goal, involvement in community education, elections, legislation, victim’s rights issues, including assistance in individual cases are all important.

4 thoughts on “Innocence Issues: How Safe is the Death Penalty? Very.

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