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A Momentous Day in Richmond; Virginia to End Capital Punishment

Virginia is poised to be the 23rd state to ban capital punishment, but the first in the South. It's quite a change of heart for the state that holds the national record for most executions - 1,389. The death penalty used to be quite popular in Virginia, but, public opinion has been slowly changing on the issue. The use of DNA evidence to review convictions demonstrated that prosecutors and juries are way more fallible than we imagined, and decades of research showed that capital punishment has little or no deterrent value and has been tainted by racial bias.

Innocence Project: "Eighteen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row. They were convicted in 11 states and served a combined 229 years in prison – including 202 years on death row – for crimes they didn’t commit."

And these 18 individuals are just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of other cases around the country in which DNA was never found or was never tested. We are left to wonder how many of those convictions were also flawed. And, even more frightening, how many individuals have been put to death wrongfully throughout the nation's history... hundreds? thousands?

So, it's not surprising to see state legislatures rethink their use of capital punishment. Yes, there are especially heinous crimes disserving of the ultimate penalty, but once you realize that the judicial system is an imperfect tool to judge guilt, most rational people would opt for life sentences instead.

“There will always be cases that cry out to me for ultimate punishment. That is not the true issue. The pivotal question instead is whether a system of justice can be constructed that reaches only the rare, right cases, without also occasionally condemning the innocent or the undeserving.” ― Scott Turow, Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty

#news #opinion #criminaljustice

By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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