The University of Michigan law school and Northwestern University have compiled a New Registry of Exoneration's data base as the result of a new study. This data base contains a list of 2000 prisoners exonerated from 1989 to the present day, when DNA evidence has been used to clear the names of innocent people accused of rape and murder. 855 of them have profiles developed for the registry website.
The data revealed some disturbing results. Death row inmates were exonerated 9 times more frequently than others convicted of murder. 25% of those exonerated of murder had received a death sentence, while 50% of those wrongfully convicted of rape or murder faced death or a lifetime of incarceration. 10 of the inmates went to their graves before their names were even cleared. For those who place unequivocal faith in our justice system, this may be somewhat hard to digest. But the data suggests that the criminal injustice system is failing those it is supposed to protect.
The leading causes of wrongful convictions are flawed eyewitness identification, prosecutorial misconduct, and perjury. There is no system in place that will totally eradicate the possibility of any of the three reoccurring. There are also studies indicating that race plays a decisive role in who is sentenced to death in this country. For example in the case of McClesky vs Kemp, McClesky argued that racism played a key role in Georgia's application of the death penalty. To support his argument McClesky sited a statistical study done by Professor David Baldus of the University of Iowa Law Schooland and his colleagues. As part of their study they collected information about all of the Capitol defendants in the state of Georgia, and after a statistical comparison of cases was done, his results were astounding.
As it turned out. Fewer than 40% of Georgia homicide cases involved white victims, but in 86% of cases where the death penalty was imposed, the victim was white. Cases involving white victims are 11 times more likely to result in a death penalty ruling than cases involving black victims.
Another finding was the fact that 22% of Black defendants who killed white victims were sentenced to death, as opposed to 8% of white defendants who killed white victims being sentenced to death. The death penalty is imposed on 34% of those who are convicted or murdering Caucasians, as opposed to 14% of defendants who are convicted for murdering African-Americans.
This is proof that the Criminal Justice System is broken, ineffective, and racist. A system which seeks to punish, yet sees only the absolute, without nuance has no right to sentence someone to death. This goes far beyond theory, or personal opinion, but is deeply rooted in truth. Besides the fact that no system is full proof, there are just too many people who benefit from its failure. The penal system has become a profit driven machine feeding on injustice which is used as a tool to increase the ranks of those who are incarcerated. But when capitol punishment is a byproduct, it
becomes a detrimental, and sometimes fatal hindrance to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.