I Don’t Care How We Execute People; I Care About Who We Execute

Debates like this one, in Oklahoma, over what mix of chemicals to use in lethal injections truly annoy me. Who cares how the person dies? They’re murderers. Personally, I’d prefer a return to public executions. Set the scaffolds up on the courthouse lawn and make a real example out of them. Even if that won’t happen, though, lets not have vapid arguments about the ingredients in a drug cocktail.

Instead, lets use our energy on the real problem with the death penalty: How we decide who’s going to be executed and who isn’t. Stories like this are what really bother me, and ought to bother anyone with an independent mind:

(Houston – November 12, 2010) The Innocence Project today released DNA test results proving that crucial hair evidence found at the scene of a murder, the only physical evidence linking the accused Claude Jones to the crime, did not belong to Jones. Although he always maintained his innocence, Jones was executed for murdering Allen Hilzendager on December 7, 2000. George Bush, who was awaiting a decision from the Florida Supreme Court on whether the presidential election recount would continue, denied Jones’ request for a 30 day stay of execution to do DNA test on the hair sample. The memo from the General Counsel’s office that recommended against the stay did not tell Bush that Jones was seeking a DNA test of the hair.

At the trial, of course, the hair was the key evidence against Jones. Turns out, it wasn’t his. He tried to have it tested, but Texas officials, more interested in getting things done than in getting them done right, killed him without bothering to do it.

Oh sure, Jones could have done it. Texas officials will respond by saying the disproved hair does not prove Jones is innocent. But that’s exactly the problem. However we do it, does anyone out there feel comfortable executing people who could have done it?

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