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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 27, 2015 at 4:08 PM

Death penalty: Systemic inadequacies in the criminal justice process

Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

The Times’ editorial “No reasonable argument for keeping death penalty” [Opinion, Jan. 21] makes a brief and insufficient mention of the “ultimate mistake,” presumably a reference to the potential execution of an innocent person. The editorial then goes on to express, at length, the view that capital punishment is not justified because of the enormous expenses and delays involved and its uneven application.

However, if none of these factors existed, if there were no money, delays, or other costs or frustrations involved, the single fact that would forever outweigh any pro-execution argument would be the reality of exonerations in recent years brought about by advances in the scientific testing of evidence, particularly DNA. Inmates can spend years on death row waiting for a judge or prosecutor to even consider testing or retesting of trial evidence with newer methods. When exoneration and a re-opening of a case occur, apologies and remorse may abound, but the system still carries on as before.

The statistics, too numerous for this letter, are available from such organizations as The Innocence Project, Amnesty International, The American Bar Association and others. Examinations of individual cases consistently point to a predictable inventory of systemic inadequacies in the criminal justice process: perjured testimony, inadequate defense, witness misidentification, flawed investigations and inherent prejudice. The moral justification of applying the death penalty to a real murderer ceases to be a factor when an innocent person might be the next one executed.

Geoffrey Braden, Seattle

Comments | More in Death penalty | Topics: American Bar Association, Amnesty International, capital punishment

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