Monday, August 08, 2005

Did Missouri do it twice?

A few weeks ago we were talking about the case of Larry Griffith, who was executed in Missouri in 1995. A district attorney in St. Louis has re-opened the Griffith case after an extensive NAACP investigation turned up evidence of Griffith's wrongful conviction.

Now the media is sniffing around another case in which a Missouri man was executed for a crime he might not have committed:

Missouri death sentence case gets another look
If innocence of executed man is proven, case would set a precedent

The Associated Press


ST. LOUIS - Many death row inmates proclaim their innocence, but Roy “Hog” Roberts, a big man, loud and profane, was adamant. He was so adamant that in the waning days before his 1999 execution for the murder of a prison guard, he demanded a polygraph test.

Attorney Bruce Livingston looked at the results and walked into Roberts’ small gray cell at Missouri’s Potosi Correctional Center and told him the news: He passed. The test indicated Roberts was telling the truth when he said he did not hold down guard Tom Jackson while other inmates stabbed him.

Tears rolled down the big man’s cheeks. His voice grew unusually quiet. “When do I get out of here?” he asked.

Livingston remembers the heartbreak of explaining that the polygraph was of no real value unless it swayed the governor. It didn’t. A few days later, Roberts was put to death.

Back in the spotlight
Roberts’ case is back in the spotlight amid heightened scrutiny of the death penalty in Missouri — and a new investigation in a separate case into whether the state executed an innocent man.

In 2000, the anti-death penalty group Equal Justice USA released a national report citing 16 potential cases of wrongful executions. Both Missouri cases are among them.

“I think if I had to list all 16 I would put him (Roberts) first,” said Claudia Whitman, who wrote the report. “There was really nothing there to convict him.”

There has never been a known case of an innocent person being executed in the United States, and those on both sides agree such a determination would create unprecedented concerns about the death penalty.


To read the whole story, go here.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't you understand anything? Recognizing the innocent people that have been executed proves the system works.

Bill Carroll said...

"There has never been a known case of an innocent person being executed in the United States, and those on both sides agree such a determination would create unprecedented concerns about the death penalty."

Sacco and Vanzeti come to mind. As does Joe Hill. But the death penalty is wrong regardless of the innocence or guilt of the victim. Murder, whether state sanctioned or not, is murder.

Anonymous said...

It should also be noted that Roberts attorney represented, in a gross conflict of interest, another defendant in the same case, a guy named Driscoll. Driscoll got a new trial and Roberts was executed. One of the most serious problems facing people on death row, and the most ignored, is the ineffectiveness of their appellate counsel. Since there is no guarantee of effective counsel during appeals there are now many, many attorneys doing habeas that are at best incompetent. This is an area that needs attention.