In an op-ed that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on the day Indiana death row inmate Darnell Williams received a stay of execution to allow testing of crucial DNA evidence that could save his life, the prosecutor from the case, Thomas Vanes, expressed second thoughts about seeking the death penalty. He wrote:

For 13 years I served as a prosecutor, and I was not bashful then in seeking the death penalty. When criminals are guilty, they deserve to be punished.

But I have also learned since leaving the prosecutor’s office 13 years ago that “the system” makes mistakes. Last year I learned that a man named Larry Mayes, whom I had prosecuted and convicted, had served more than 20 years for a rape he did not commit. How do we know? DNA testing.

Hard facts trump opinion and belief, as they should. It was a sobering lesson, and none of the easy-to-reach rationalizations (just doing my job, it was the jurors who convicted him, the appellate courts had upheld the conviction) completely lessen the sense of responsibility - moral, if not legal - that comes with the conviction of an innocent man. I too had been part of “the system.”

(Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2003). See New Voices.