Thursday, 11 October 2007

Keeping error away from death penalty

By The Sentinel, October 11, 2007
Last updated: Thursday, October 11, 2007 9:28 AM EDT

Though 117 nations have done away with the death penalty, the United States continues to send prisoners convicted of the most serious crimes to the gallows.There was a brief period in the 1970s when a series of Supreme Court decisions essentially did away with capital punishment nationwide on constitutional grounds.

But the individual states rushed to rewrite their death penalty statutes and executions resumed.A fairly strong constituency continues to press for an end to capital punishment inside the U.S., but public sentiment remains narrowly in favor of executions.Because the death penalty allows no room for error, the state has a duty to make sure that innocent people are not executed.

This is not as simple as it sounds.

Former Gov. George Ryan of Illinois declared a moratorium on executions in the year 2000 following the widely publicized work of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.From 1977, when Illinois’ capital punishment law was rewritten to comply with Supreme Court precedent, to 2000, the state had executed 12 prisoners. In the same period, 13 death row inmates were exonerated.

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