INNOCENCE: Op-Ed--"You Can't Fix the Death Penalty"

In a June 1 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Columbia University law professor James Liebman (pictured) pointed to his recent investigation of a likely innocent man executed in Texas to illustrate the danger of a “cheaper and quicker” death penalty. Such proposals for reform are “a terrible and dangerous idea,” Liebman said. Based on his research into the prosecution of Carlos DeLuna, who was executed in 1989, DeLuna’s case “flew through the courts.” He was arrested and executed within six years, which is half of the national average for capital cases. More than two decades later, an extensive investigation of the case led Prof. Liebman to conclude that DeLuna was almost certainly innocent. “Only a more careful - and consequently longer and more expensive prosecution and appeals process might have prevented the tragedy,” he wrote. He further concluded, “The flaws in the system that condemned DeLuna — faulty eyewitness testimony, poor legal representation and evidence withheld from the defense — continue to put innocent people at risk of execution…. DeLuna’s case disproves the myth that we can save the death penalty by generating more ‘quick and dirty’ executions. The death penalty is broken. At great effort and expense, states such as California have tried every measure to fix it, but they have failed. The only solution is to end it.”

Californians will vote on a referendum to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole in November. The money saved would assist victims and help solve cold cases.

(J. Liebman, “You can’t fix the death penalty,” Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2012). See Costs and Innocence. Listen to DPIC’s podcast on Innocence.