But the question that is frequently asked is this: Have we executed innocent people? Academic experts within the abolition community think that around 25 innocent people may have been executed. If that number is correct, that would be about 2.5 percent of the total.
But the truth is, we lack hard, conclusive proof. Once a person is executed, the abolition movement tends to move on to the next case. Investigations into whether or not the state got the right guy are rare.
But now comes the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The following was reported this morning:
Was the wrong man executed?
Up to the moment that lethal injection took his life in the early morning hours of June 21, 1995, Larry Griffin insisted he was innocent of a drive-by murder in St. Louis.
Now new disclosures support his claim, and St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce has reopened an investigation of the case.
A man wounded in the same drive-by shooting says Griffin was not involved.
And the 1st police officer on the scene has given a new account that undermines the trial testimony of the only witness who identified Griffin as a killer.
A year-long investigation financed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund unearthed the disclosures. The project's lawyers and investigators believe Griffin was innocent of the crime for which he was
executed: the murder of 19-year-old Quintin Moss.
Joyce has assigned 2 top lawyers to investigate the case as if it had just happened. Moss, a drug dealer, was murdered 25 years ago this summer.
The NAACP project's lawyers and investigators believe Griffin should be exonerated. In addition, they have supplied Joyce with the names of 3 men they suspect were responsible for Moss's murder.
Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor who supervised the investigation, said Griffin's case was the strongest demonstration yet of an execution of an innocent man. If true, it would give more credence to death penalty opponents who contend that because human beings make mistakes, the capital punishment system could produce deadly errors.
"There is no real doubt that we have an innocent person," Gross said. "If we could go to trial on this case, if there was a forum where we could take this to trial, we would win hands down."
The report comes at a time when Congress is considering legislation to streamline federal appeals of state-imposed death sentences. Joshua Marquis, a prosecutor and board member of the National District Attorneys Association, has told a House panel considering the legislation that death penalty opponents cannot point to a single case in which a demonstrably innocent person has been executed in the modern history of American capital punishment.
To read the whole story, go here.