Thursday, June 14, 2007

The saga of Larry Peterson

"Kill them all," death penalty proponents like to say. "Let them fry."

Try telling that to Larry Peterson. The state of New Jersey once sought death for Larry. A jury disagreed, but did find him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison.

That was, oh, about 18 or so years ago. Today, after new DNA testing, Larry Peterson is a free man -- and a living, walking testament as to why the death penalty is a seriously flawed, mistake-ridden public policy.

Over the past two days, National Public Radio has taken a look at Larry's case.

Their story begins:

Larry Peterson spent more than 17 years in prison for murder and rape before DNA testing led a judge to overturn his conviction.

The legal victory ended one phase of Peterson's life. But it also marked the beginning of a new battle: Even though the state agrees that Peterson is no longer guilty of the crime, the burden now falls on him to prove that he is innocent of the charges, which he must do in order to receive compensation for the years he spent in prison.

"My life has not always been an honorable life," the 56-year-old New Jersey man says. "[B]ut I have never been a murderer, never been a rapist."

For the past two years, Robert Siegel has followed Peterson's long and difficult journey from incarceration to vindication. This is the story of Peterson's efforts to rebuild his life, and of his continuing fight to seek redress for the years he lost in prison. It also seeks to show how Peterson's exoneration has affected the family of the victim of the crime that originally put him behind bars.

You can read part one of the NPR series here.

And part two is here.

Kill them all? Let them fry? Well, maybe not.

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