Sunday, 26 October 2008

Life after death row

In 1992 Ray Krone, a former sergeant in the US Air Force, was sentenced to
death row for the murder of Kimberly Ancona, a bar manager found stabbed
to death in a restaurant near his home in Arizona. 10 years later, after
running newly developed DNA tests on the victim's clothes, he was found
innocent and freed. Krone was the 100th prisoner in the US to be
exonerated from death row. Now a campaigner against the death penalty, he
describes the long fight to clear his name

Being arrested was quite a surprise. On the day they found the body, they
brought me in to the police station and questioned me for 3 hours. I told
them everything I knew and thought that would be the end of it.

The next day they brought me to the police station to take blood and hair
samples, as well as dental casts of my teeth, and they questioned me for
yet another three hours. But again, I told them the truth. I knew I had
nothing to hide. The next day was New Years Eve, December 31, 1991; I'd
just got home and was in my driveway, getting out of my car, when all of a
sudden a van screeched up behind me, the doors flew open and people were
shouting "Freeze! Don't move!" Armed officers in full riot gear spilled
out of the van and arrested me right there.

Without any real evidence or any scientific support for it, the lead
detective decided that I was guilty, and he acted on it quickly. I worked
at the post office and it wasn't as if I was going anywhere. But within 2
days the analysis had come back confirming that my fingerprints,
footprints and hair had been found on the victims body. That stuff
couldn't possibly have come back from the lab in 2 days.

I knew the fingerprints and strands of hair at the crime scene weren't
mine. The footprints were of size 9 shoes and I'm a size 11. DNA testing
wasn't as prevalent then as it is now and they simply said that whatever
prints didnt match mine had nothing to do with the murder. The size 9
footprints at the crime scene were not only found in the kitchen where the
murder weapon a butcher's knife was taken from, but they were also on
the floor tiles next to where the body was discovered. I found out later
that whoever made the initial police report had changed the killer's
footprints to a size 11 to make it fit my profile, and when they went to
my house they couldn't match them to any of my shoes. But then they found
a local medical examiner who would testify that the bite marks on her body
matched my teeth.

It didn't matter what I said after that. It was like the frustration you
feel when you're a kid and your parents blame you for something your
brother or sister did, only this time it was a sharper intensity of pain
and lasted for a lot longer.

I was in contact with my sister regularly. I would tell her: "Don't worry
about it, I'll be out of here any minute." 7 months went by and I was put
on trial for murder, but I was still telling her it would all work out.
Then I got convicted and sent to death row. That was when it became a heck
of a burden on my mom and my family. I was the oldest in the family, and
had always been the responsible one my folks knew to trust me if I said
everything would be all right. Death row changed that.

When you get sent to death row you're in a little cell the size of most
people's bathroom and youre kept separate from all the other inmates. You
can see them in the distance and yell out to them, but you don't have any
physical contact. I realised in a short time that if I was going to fight
the system Id better get to know it. I started going to the law library,
reading up on case law.

Eventually it became known that the prosecutor had been withholding
evidence and the Arizona Supreme Court granted me a new trial. The judge
convicted me again, but said that there was lingering doubt of my guilt
and sentenced me to life imprisonment instead of death row.

In 2001 a new law was passed making it easier for inmates to request DNA
testing. The police still had items of the victim's clothing so I asked
the judge if I could have them tested. The prosecutor objected, as did the
attorney generals office, but nevertheless the judge ordered that it go
ahead. The Phoenix police department put some of the DNA into the
nationwide data bank, which is where the DNA of convicted felons all over
the US is stored, and it came back with a match. It was a man who had a
history of sexual assaults on women and children and lived 500 feet from
the bar in which the murder took place.

I remember that day clearly from start to finish. It was April 8, 2002. A
Friday. It began as just another day in prison but at noon I was told my
attorney was on the phone. He asked me how I was doing and I said: "Oh you
know, fine, just another day in paradise." He laughed and said: "What are
you hungry for, Ray?" and I said that I guessed I'd eat whatever was in
the chow hall. But he kept on and said: "No really, you want steak,
seafood? How about a Margarita?" I asked him what the devil he was talking
about and thats when he said: "I just got off the phone with the
prosecutor's office. They're cutting the paperwork. You're going home
today." My heart stopped; I couldn't breathe. 2 hours later I walked out
of prison. I kept looking over my shoulder in case theyd made a mistake.

What that prosecutor did, hiding evidence while at the same time actively
pursuing the death penalty for me, could be seen as attempted murder. When
I found out that he had covered up so much evidence and was still alleging
that I got away with murder, even after I was released, I started talking
to attorneys. I figured that this monster was never going to let me live,
not as a free and innocent person anyway. I took out a lawsuit against him
and after 3 years he settled with me or rather the city and the county
settled. We couldn't sue him; we had to sue his supervisors for not
training and supervising him.

The day I got out of prison was the day I won justice for myself and my
family and for all those friends and people who had stood up and defended
me when the rest of the world was entitled to say "That guy's a murderer."
I didn't want to let any of those people down by coming out angry and
negative; what I wanted was for my family to feel safe again, and proud of
what they had stood for all those years. I wanted them to be proud of me.

My life started over again at the age of 45, and I walked out of prison to
the distinction of being the 100th person in this country to have been
exonerated from death row. There were a lot of anti-death penalty groups
out there waiting for that milestone, and there was a lot of press
coverage. One of the reporters asked me: "Mr Krone, given your faith in
God, how do you justify Him leaving you in prison for 10 years?" I wasn't
sure how to answer a deep, soul-searching question like that and my mind
went completely blank. Then suddenly it came to me and I said: "Well,
maybe it's not about those 10 years in prison. Maybe it's about what I
have to do in the next 10 years."

So later on, when I had more time to think about it, I thought that maybe
I was right, that maybe there was a reason why at the age of 35, when I
thought I was running my life, everything suddenly flew out of control. I
thought that this could be bigger than me, that there could be a reason
why I was arrested, and why I got out of prison on the day I did. So I've
been travelling around the country speaking to people about it and trying
to raise awareness, because if it can happen to me it can happen to

It's part therapy being able to talk about it not keeping it inside where
it can blow up one day and it's also important to feel that something
good can come out of my experiences. People are beginning to realise that
the justice system can make terrible mistakes and condemn innocent people.
I didn't see this as a career, and I certainly didn't plan on being a
motivational speaker or an activist against the death penalty, but in the
same way that some people go to college for 10 years to become doctors or
lawyers, it does give my time on death row some sense of purpose.

Ray Krone is now a director of Witness to Innocence , an organisation
that campaigns against the death penalty. He was interviewed by Anna

(source: The Guardian Weekly)

1 comment:

dudleysharp said...

The Death Penalty Provides More Protection for Innocents
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.

To state the blatantly clear, living murderers, in prison, after release or escape, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.

Although an obvious truism, it is surprising how often folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.

No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.

That is. logically, conclusive.

16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence.

A surprise? No.

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.

Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don't. Studies which don't find for deterrence don't say no one is deterred, but that they couldn't measure those deterred.

What prospect of a negative outcome doesn't deter some? There isn't one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.

However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is compelling and un refuted that death is feared more than life.

Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it's a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.

Reality paints a very different picture.

What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.

What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.

What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.

This is not, even remotely, in dispute.

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.

Furthermore, history tells us that lifers have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.

In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.

Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.

6 inmates have been released from death row because of DNA evidence. An additional 9 were released from prison, because of DNA exclusion, who had previously been sentenced to death.

The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers, The New York Times, has recognized that deception.

To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . (1) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 "innocents" from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their "exonerated" or "innocents" list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions - something easily discovered with fact checking.

There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can reasonable conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.

Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?


Full report -All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.

Full report - The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request

(1) The Death of Innocents: A Reasonable Doubt,
New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
national legal correspondent for The NY Times

copyright 2007-2008, Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

Pro death penalty sites see Death Penalty (Sweden)