Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Turning reason on its head

Ran across this letter to the editor in today's New York Times:

To the Editor:

That Larry Griffin may have been executed by mistake in Missouri should give us pause ("In a 1980 Killing, a New Look at the Death Penalty," news article, July 19). After acknowledging the advantage such a revelation would provide death-penalty opponents, Joshua Marquis, a pro-death penalty prosecutor, points out that "innocence is very different than saying this guy maybe didn't do it."

His implication is that we need not worry about the case unless it provides us with indisputable proof of innocence.

This turns reason on its head; the demand for absolute certainty should be up front when someone is sentenced to death.

The real travesty is that defendants are often sentenced to death with evidence that yields something less than full certainty. Experience has shown that all too often we are missing that mark.

Edwin Colfax----Chicago, July 19, 2005

The writer is director, Death Penalty Education Project, Center on Wrongful Convictions, Northwestern University School of Law.

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