Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Killing the innocent

For the first time it looks like the government may be about to own up to the fact that a man was executed for a crime he did not commit.

... 25 years ago ... a 19-year-old drug dealer named Quintin Moss was gunned down from a slow-moving car... And the man convicted of the killing, Larry Griffin, was executed 10 years ago.
Yet the city's top prosecutor has decided to re-investigate the murder as if it just happened, out of new concerns that the wrong man may have been put to death for the crime.
should Ms. Joyce, the St. Louis circuit attorney, demonstrate Mr. Griffin was not the killer, as the report and even some members of the victim's family contend, it would be the first proven execution of an innocent person, so far as death penalty advocates or opponents can recall.

This would be a significant step in the debate over capital punishment. It is surely not the first time that an innocent person has been executed by our justice system, but it would be the first time that such an outcome has been officially acknowledged.
Still, it is important to remember that for true opponents of the death penalty the killing of innocents is only part of the problem. The death penalty is wrong even when its target is definitely guilty of the crime. Jesus did not insist on seeing proof that Mary Magdalene was innocent of the prostitution charges levied against her before he challenged the mob to let someone without sin cast the first stone.

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