Thursday, February 27, 2003

This is sad, even for lawyers.

"A prosecutor was trying to block a death row inmate from having his conviction reopened on the basis of new evidence, and Judge Stith, of the Missouri Supreme Court, was getting exasperated. 'Are you suggesting,' she asked the prosecutor, that 'even if we find Mr. Amrine is actually innocent, he should be executed?'
Frank A. Jung, an assistant state attorney general, replied, 'That's correct, your honor.'
That exchange was, legal experts say, unusual only for its frankness."

"To make sure we are clear on this,' Judge Michael A. Wolff of the Supreme Court replied, 'if we find in a particular case that DNA evidence absolutely excludes somebody as the murderer, then we must execute them anyway if we can't find an underlying constitutional violation at their trial?'
Again, Mr. Jung said yes."

"...Jamie Orenstein, a former Justice Department official. 'The justification for closing off innocence-based challenges is that eventually we reach a point where allowing them will prevent very few unjust executions, but will undermine the deterrence and retribution justifications for the death penalty by letting prisoners engage in endless delay'."

"This summer, the federal appeals court in St. Louis provided one sort of answer. Despite what the court said was 'a nagging suspicion that the wrong man may have been convicted of capital murder,' the three-judge panel wrote, the defendant, Darryl Burton, was entitled to 'no relief, even as the facts suggest that he may well be innocent'."

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