Thursday, 17 September 2009

The impact of Willingham’s execution

One of the biggest news stories over the past week or so has been the wrongful conviction of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004. A state-sanctioned investigation (as well as several others conducted since the execution) has recently proven that there was no real evidence showing that the fatal fire for which he was killed was arsen and not an accident. This conclusion could lead to the first ever state admission to executing an innocent man. An article from the Los Angelos Times yesterday leads me to believe that support for the death penalty in California will decline sharply as a result of this news.

Over the past 20 years, Cali’s support for the death penalty has declined from 79% to 66% due to the fear of wrongful execution. That was only because of an expectation of something that hadn’t yet happened – but now it has. I imagine that in response to Willingham’s case that these percentages will drop even more, and not only in California.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the numbers nationwide after this.


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