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Argument: Mistaken convictions have not translated into wrongful executions

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Supporting quotations

Michael Nevin, Freelance Journalist. "Death Decisions". The American Daily. 8 Apr. 2004 - Several myths about the death penalty have been reported but continue to be debunked upon closer examination. The Liebman study at Columbia University, 'Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases, 1973-1995,' released its results in 2000 claiming serious flaws in the system, including a high 'error' rate. It was later revealed that the misleading “error” included any issue requiring further review by a lower court, even when the court upheld the sentence. The 23-year study found no cases of mistaken executions. The numerous appeals in capital cases demonstrate the extraordinary adherence to due process. The fallacy that innocent people are being executed cannot be validated, and it is intellectually dishonest for opponents of the death penalty to perpetrate this myth. The death penalty in America is undoubtedly one of the most accurately administered criminal justice procedures in the world.


Thomas R. Eddlem. "Ten anti-death penalty fallacies". The New American. 2 June 2002 - "FALLACY #3: Innocence

"A review of death penalty judgments over a 23-year period found a national error rate of 68%." (ACLU Death Penalty Campaign statement)

"[S]erious error -- error substantially undermining the reliability of capital verdicts -- has reached epidemic proportions throughout our death penalty system. More than two out of every three capital judgments reviewed by the courts during the 23-year study period were found to be seriously flawed." ("Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases, 1973-1995" by James Liebman et al.)

Correction: The major media reported this highly publicized Columbia University study uncritically when it was first released in 2000. But Reg Brown from the Florida governor's office exploded it: "The 'study' defines 'error' to include any issue requiring further review by a lower court.... Using the authors' misleading definition, the 'study' does, however, conclude that 64 Florida post-conviction cases were rife with 'error' -- even though none of these Florida cases was ultimately resolved by a 'not guilty' verdict, a pardon or a dismissal of murder charges."

Brown noted that even political overturning of death penalty cases added to the figure. "[T]he nearly 40 death penalty convictions that were reversed by the California Supreme Court during the tenure of liberal activist Rose Bird are treated as 'error cases' when in fact ideological bias was arguably at work." Paul G. Cassell of the Wall Street Journal explained how the 68 percent figure is deceptive: "After reviewing 23 years of capital sentences, the study's authors (like other researchers) were unable to find a single case in which an innocent person was executed. Thus, the most important error rate -- the rate of mistaken executions -- is zero."


Michael Nevin. "Death Decisions". American Daily. 8 Mar. 2003 - The fallacy that innocent people are being executed cannot be validated.[1]


Paul Cassell. "False Confessions? The guilty and the 'innocent': An examination of alleged cases of wrongful conviction from false confessions". Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy; Cambridge; Spring 1999.


Oregon District Attorney Josh Marquis - Even according to Barry Scheck's Innocence Project there have only been 174 DNA exonerations for ALL crimes, more than 90% of which were not murder, let alone death penalty cases. In fact, the number of inmates taken off death row specifically because DNA cleared them is....FIVE. An additional nine inmates who were once on death row were eventually fully exonerated by DNA evidence. Some might say, 14 or 140, it doesn't make a difference. That makes as much sense as being told you have a 1% mortality risk from a surgical procedure versus a 10% risk.[2]

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