Innocent NYer released after 17 yrs

…as if we needed another reason to make certain the death penalty does NOT come back to our State…


A message from David Kaczynski, Executive Director, NYADP

The exoneration of Jeffrey Deskovic, who served 17 years in prison for a Peekskill murder and rape he did not commit, underscores why growing majorities of New Yorkers oppose the death penalty as a flawed and unnecessary blot on the criminal justice system.

His exoneration follows closely last May’s freeing of Douglas Warney who served 10 years in prison for a Rochester murder he did not commit.

In both cases, DNA evidence was available but local prosecutors resisted requests that it be consulted to establish the convicted men’s innocence. That is all too common an occurrence in a legal system structured as an adversarial process, where elected district attorneys may turn a blind eye to innocence claims out of a reluctance to admit a mistake.

In both cases, public pressure led to eventual tests which linked crime scene DNA to individuals already serving time in jail on other charges.

We can be grateful that Mr. Deskovic and Mr. Warney have been freed from incarceration for crimes they did not commit. DNA has provided the kind of hard evidence that the Innocence Project and others have used to prove innocence.

But DNA evidence is available only in a small percentage of murder cases which lead to capital charges and death sentences. How many of the other cases in which there is no DNA evidence have doomed innocent men and women who, through mistakes or misconduct, find themselves imprisoned or on death row?

Nationally, the number of death row inmates exonerated upon post-conviction investigation continues to grow, now topping 120. Just in the last 18 months, newspaper accounts suggest that four inmates were actually executed * three in Texas, and one in Missouri * despite evidence supporting their innocence.

Wrongful convictions are a major reason that New Yorkers now prefer life without parole is the appropriate maximum sentence for those who commit the most serious crimes. The New York State Assembly learned that as well when it blocked reinstatement of the state’s costly, unfair, flawed and biased 10-year-old death penalty statute which had been declared unconstitutional.

The death penalty is a system which buries its worst mistakes.

It is time for our leaders to come to see what a majority of New Yorkers see we can live without the death penalty.

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