Saturday, July 14, 2007

Preventing Wrongful Convictions

The LAT has a couple of excellent editorials today, one drawing attention to the 'Benghazi Six' - a case concerning the death sentences of health professionals who have been convicted of deliberately infecting 426 children with HIV in Libya which we featured previously, and another pointing out the company we keep in maintaining our allegiance the death chamber,
The spectacle of state-ordered death has been on display across the world this week — in the sentencing of a Los Angeles serial killer whose case revealed that another man had been wrongly convicted for several of the crimes; in the dispiriting case of a Georgia man set for execution despite the shaky evidence against him; in the abrupt killing of a Chinese official by a government more interested in image than justice; in the stoning of an Iranian man for violating his nation's moral code; in the sentencing of six almost-certainly innocent foreign medical workers in Libya. Which of these is more barbaric?
These editorials follow on an op-ed, Doing time for no crime, by Arthur Carmona, a young man wrongfully convicted of robbery and sentenced to 17 years in prison, serving three before gaining his release. Carmona is now campaigning for criminal justice reform and recommends legislation that will prevent wrongful convictions,
Senate Bill 756, sponsored by Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles), would require the state Department of Justice to develop new guidelines for eyewitness identification procedures. For example, guidelines in other states limit the use of in-field show-ups like the one that led to my wrongful conviction.

Senate Bill 511, sponsored by Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), would require recording of the entire interrogation, including the Miranda warning, in cases of violent felonies. Electronic recording of interrogations would not only help end false confessions but also discourage police detectives from lying during interrogations — as they did in my case by claiming to have videotaped evidence of me.

Senate Bill 609, sponsored by Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), would prevent convictions based on uncorroborated testimony by jailhouse snitches.
These bills were crafted in response to the findings of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice which will issue an opinion on the ultimate fairness of the death penalty in the near future. See our sidebar for information on contacting Gov. Schwarzenegger and your state legislators with your views on these measures to prevent wrongful convictions.

Meanwhile, congrats to Rwanda! They abolished the death penalty this week.
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