Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Breaking news out of New Jersey

Over the course of the past week or so, one or more trolls have been visiting this blog, making light of our efforts to abolish New Jersey's death penalty (and, in the process, leaving at least one racially offensive comment).

We tend not to censor such things. We tend to believe that "truth will out" and that the reader can reach his or her own conclusions regarding the many sides of this issue.

But the trolls, if they are still lurking about, should know about the breaking news out of New Jersey this morning.

Byron Halsey, who was wrongfully convicted in 1988 of the brutal murders of two children, is expected to walk out of a New Jersey courthouse a free man for the first time in two decades. DNA testing has shown that another man committed the sexual assault and murder of a 7-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy in Plainfield, NJ, and the Innocence Project joined with prosecutors in filing a motion to overturn the conviction. A judge is expected to grant the motion at a hearing this morning.

What's noteworthy about this case is that prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Halsey (the jury didn't go along with their wishes). This is the second exoneration in New Jersey where prosecutors sought death, a jury came back with life, and the person was later found to be innocent.

I've said it before but it's worth saying again: the death penalty is not NFL football. There is no "instant replay." There are no do-overs. Dead is dead. (Well, dead is dead in terms of our secular understanding of life and death.)

There are a number of good reasons to abolish the death penalty. The fact that "to err is human" is one of them. We keep sending innocent people to prison (and, more than 100 times since 1976, to death row.)

Enough, already. Enough.

You can read more about today's news over at the Innocent Project's blog.

[Note: In State v. Halsey, 329 N.J. Super. 553 (App. Div. 2000), the NJ Appellate Division DENIED Mr. Halsey access to DNA testing. His case's legal journey looks something like this: [1] an innocent man, whose trial counsel has a stellar reputation was convicted; [2] then the safety valve of direct appeal didn't work; [3] then the safety valve of postconviction relief didn't work; [4] then the safety valve of DNA testing was denied; [5] then by unpublished opinion was denied federal habeas corpus relief; and [6] then due to the miracle of the Innocence Project Mr. Halsey, rather than dying in prison, walks out of prison an innocent man.- k]


Amerika said...

We continue to see examples of how our justice system is broken in a fundamental way. Until we can ensure that these kinds of miscarriages of justice will not occur, it is not responsible to hand out the most final judgement of all - the death penalty. I continue to be amazed at our citizens' unwillingness to deal with this issue at home even as men and women continue to be exonerated across the nation. We need to deal with this issue now and compensate these "victims" accordingly when they are freed!

melinda said...

I agree, however, I am just not sure that there is any compensation that truely compensates in these peoples lives. There should be investigations launched to find out what/whom is REALLY causing these false allegations. I do know that this will come to an end- the death penalty, but how many more lives must they take?wwjd?