STUDIES: Innocence and the Death Penalty Around the World

A new report from The Death Penalty Project, “The Inevitability of Error,” examines the risk of wrongful convictions in capital prosecutions through case studies from around the world. The report analyzes recent innocence cases in Japan, the U.S., Taiwan, and Sierra Leone, as well as older cases from the United Kingdom that encouraged abolition efforts there. Among the cases included are those of Iwao Hakamada, who was released after 47 years on death row in Japan, and Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person in the U.S. exonerated from death row by DNA evidence. The study recommends improvements to investigative and appellate procedures, but concludes, “This may, in theory, decrease the likelihood of wrongful convictions, but it will never eliminate it altogether….There is no perfect justice system - error is inevitable. Wherever the death penalty is imposed, there is always a risk that innocent people will be convicted and executed.”

(“The inevitability of error: The administration of justice in death penalty cases,” The Death Penalty Project, July 24, 2014). The Death Penalty Project is based in London and offers free legal representation and other assistance to those facing capital punishment. See Innocence and Studies.