February 8, 2007
Wrongful convictions dispute death penalty
In response to the Feb. 1 article, "Killer's sentence sparks a debate: Death
penalty foes say prosecutors in police murders ducked law":
Retired Colonie Police Chief John Grebert's acknowledgment of the potential
for wrongful convictions is a welcome law enforcement voice in the death
penalty discussion. He is correct that the DNA databases are a useful tool
in identifying violent criminals; however, databases will not prevent
wrongful convictions and the real possibility of executing the innocent.
Douglas Warney and Jeffrey Deskovic were recently freed from New York state
prisons after spending 10 years or more for murders they did not commit. In
both cases the DNA at the time of the trial clearly did not match the
defendant, yet the juries convicted.
The district attorneys in their cases had no obligation to retest the DNA
and did not for more than a decade. What if no one had agreed to the new
tests and a sentence of death was in place? What if the real killer's DNA
was not yet part of the database?
DNA is only recovered in roughly 10 percent of murder cases. Olmado Hidalgo
and Barry Gibbs, also exonerated this year, were convicted of murder with no
DNA evidence. Their wrongful convictions only came to light as a result of
law enforcement investigations into separate crimes that just happened to
lead to the killers in their cases. The death penalty is an unwise, unsafe,
New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty
Source : Albany Times Union