Arkansas May Have Just Executed an Innocent Man

MattinBama

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I had seen this story on tv recently but didn't know any particulars about individuals although I suspected with it being 8 prisoners that there likely would at least be one innocent person involved. Arkansas has a lethal injection drug that is about to expire so they are rushing to kill these prisoners before it does. The reasoning is beyond stupid to me. The guy was asking for DNA testing to be completed before being killed. Doesn't really seem like that much to ask for in this situation with all the information we have now about DNA testing freeing innocent people.

Arkansas Puts Ledell Lee to Death, in Its First Execution Since 2005

VARNER, Ark. — The State of Arkansas, dismissing criticism that it intended to rush too many prisoners to their deaths too quickly, on Thursday night carried out its first execution in more than a decade. Using a lethal injection drug that has been the subject of sharp constitutional debate, the state plans to execute three more men by the end of the month, before its supply of the chemical expires.

...

An evening of appeals kept Mr. Lee, 51, alive as his death warrant neared its midnight expiration. The United States Supreme Court, as well as a federal appeals court in St. Louis, issued temporary stays of execution while they considered his legal arguments. In Little Rock, the Arkansas capital, Gov. Asa Hutchinson monitored developments at the State Capitol.

At one point on Thursday night, the Supreme Court nearly halted Mr. Lee’s execution, but decided, 5 to 4, to allow the state to proceed with its plan, which had called for eight prisoners to be put to death over less than two weeks. The court’s majority — which included the newest justice, Neil M. Gorsuch — did not explain its decision, but in a dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer complained about how the state had established its execution schedule because of the approaching expiration date of Arkansas’s stock of midazolam.
Innocence Project Responds to the Execution of Ledell Lee

Ledell Lee proclaimed his innocence from the day of his arrest until the night of his execution twenty-four years later. During that time, hundreds of innocent people have been freed from our nation’s prisons and death rows by DNA evidence. It is hard to understand how the same government that uses DNA to prosecute crimes every day could execute Mr. Lee without allowing him a simple DNA test.

Arkansas’s decision to rush through the execution of Mr. Lee just because its supply of lethal drugs are expiring at the end of the month denied him the opportunity to conduct DNA testing that could have proven his innocence. While reasonable people can disagree on whether death is an appropriate form of punishment, no one should be executed when there is a possibility that person is innocent.

In a dissenting opinion denying Lee a stay issued today, Arkansas Supreme Court Judge Josephine Linker Hart made a powerful argument for why DNA testing was in the interest of justice. Justice Hart characterized Lee’s claim for DNA testing of hairs the state claimed linked Lee to the crime as a “modest request,” noting that the hair evidence had been used against him at trial and “tilted in the State’s favor a very weak case based entirely on circumstantial evidence.”

Judge Hart also emphasized the unfairness and arbitrariness of the Arkansas court’s grant of a stay to Stacey Johnson for DNA testing while denying one to Lee, adding, “I am at a loss to explain this Court’s dissimilar treatment of similarly situated litigants.” Judge Hart concluded by stating, “The court’s error in denying the motion for stay will not be capable of correction.”
 

crimsonaudio

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This sort of case is precisely why I no longer support the death penalty (outside of extreme cases, such as the recent dirtbag who murdered the old man while filming himself doing it). The state simply makes far too many mistakes.
 

bamachile

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This sort of case is precisely why I no longer support the death penalty (outside of extreme cases, such as the recent dirtbag who murdered the old man while filming himself doing it). The state simply makes far too many mistakes.
Somewhat agree. The death penalty is one of many things that I support in theory, but see multiple problems in practice.
 

crimsonaudio

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I don't know the details on this Arkansas case, but death row cases with an actual innocence claim are kind of like abortions based on rape, incest, or the life of the mother. They certainly happen, but the whole debate shouldn't turn on them.
I guess this is where we simply agree to disagree.
 

MattinBama

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That's fine, but your "extreme case" of a horrible murder where there is no doubt about guilt is not actually extreme. The extreme case is a convicted murderer for whom there is actually evidence of innocence.
Of which there have been more than enough to call into doubt the entire thing. I'm not willing to chalk 1 out of 10 or 1 out of 100 innocent people being killed by the state as okay as long as it's not an every day thing.

Even innocent people "admit to their crime" to try & get released on parole or avoid the death penalty because as long as they keep saying they're innocent their chances of getting out of the system are essentially null.
 

selmaborntidefan

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I have problems with BOTH the application of the death penalty AND the arguments used for the title of the thread (not picking on you, Matt, but on the concept itself).

First, I'm bothered by the very idea of executing the wrong person. If it happens even once, it's too many times - of course, Brett makes a valid point in that in almost all these cases you might be executing a guy for a murder he didn't commit but he has multiple violent crimes on his rap sheet. I just think even ONE is too many. Secondly, I don't see how it can function as any sort of deterrent when a killer gets to spend at least 15 years living on the taxpayer dime. I can see if we were in the days of immediate drawn and quartered or hangings in the public square, but a person found guilty nowadays isn't going to Ole Sparky until at least 2032 (and yes, I'm speaking metaphorically about Sparky). And thirdly, I'm bothered by the inconvenient fact that if you're a black person and kill a white person you're far more likely to get the death penalty than if you're a white dude whose daddy is politically well-connected.

However....

I will never have much regard for the so-called Innocence Project, either. When Barry Scheck cast his lot with OJ Simpson - a man even he HAD to know was guilty - to argue DNA was suddenly corrupt, their entire concept was forever gone for me because they obviously will say anything to accomplish anything. You know - like their getting the always reliable social lib to write "(State) MAY execute innocent man" even when they KNOW that person is guilty. Tabloid justice.

And btw - their 'thousands freed' is somewhat disingenuous because a lot of that (hell pretty much all of it) goes back to when DNA was NOT used and people were found guilty. That's hardly the case nowadays so the notion that we NOW have thousands of innocent people on death row from murders they didn't commit in the last decade - I just don't buy it.

As far as this case....I'm wary of putting in an express line just because of the expiration date of a drug.

I mean does that REALLY matter? I work in a lab and on occasion we draw blood and process it on May 1 in a tube that expired the day before. Does anyone REALLY think that change of the clock makes a substantive difference?

It's funny that the only case I've ever seen of the anti-death penalty folks admitting a guy committed the murder was Timothy McVeigh. If that guy didn't deserve it, who does? Yet they ALWAYS float that "might be innocent" nonsense even in cases where it's pretty obvious the person is guilty.

Just like crying wolf in politics ("(name of Republican) is racist"), you can't go it anywhere else and expect folks to buy it, either.

I doubt the guy in question is innocent, though.
 

selmaborntidefan

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I have problems with BOTH the application of the death penalty AND the arguments used for the title of the thread (not picking on you, Matt, but on the concept itself).

First, I'm bothered by the very idea of executing the wrong person. If it happens even once, it's too many times - of course, Brett makes a valid point in that in almost all these cases you might be executing a guy for a murder he didn't commit but he has multiple violent crimes on his rap sheet. I just think even ONE is too many. Secondly, I don't see how it can function as any sort of deterrent when a killer gets to spend at least 15 years living on the taxpayer dime. I can see if we were in the days of immediate drawn and quartered or hangings in the public square, but a person found guilty nowadays isn't going to Ole Sparky until at least 2032 (and yes, I'm speaking metaphorically about Sparky). And thirdly, I'm bothered by the inconvenient fact that if you're a black person and kill a white person you're far more likely to get the death penalty than if you're a white dude whose daddy is politically well-connected.

However....

I will never have much regard for the so-called Innocence Project, either. When Barry Scheck cast his lot with OJ Simpson - a man even he HAD to know was guilty - to argue DNA was suddenly corrupt, their entire concept was forever gone for me because they obviously will say anything to accomplish anything. You know - like their getting the always reliable social lib to write "(State) MAY execute innocent man" even when they KNOW that person is guilty. Tabloid justice.

And btw - their 'thousands freed' is somewhat disingenuous because a lot of that (hell pretty much all of it) goes back to when DNA was NOT used and people were found guilty. That's hardly the case nowadays so the notion that we NOW have thousands of innocent people on death row from murders they didn't commit in the last decade - I just don't buy it.

As far as this case....I'm wary of putting in an express line just because of the expiration date of a drug.

I mean does that REALLY matter? I work in a lab and on occasion we draw blood and process it on May 1 in a tube that expired the day before. Does anyone REALLY think that change of the clock makes a substantive difference?

It's funny that the only case I've ever seen of the anti-death penalty folks admitting a guy committed the murder was Timothy McVeigh. If that guy didn't deserve it, who does? Yet they ALWAYS float that "might be innocent" nonsense even in cases where it's pretty obvious the person is guilty.

Just like crying wolf in politics ("(name of Republican) is racist"), you can't go it anywhere else and expect folks to buy it, either.

I doubt the guy in question is innocent, though.

I have no idea how that thumbs down is on my post, but I didn't direct that at anyone or knowingly select it. Sorry if it comes across that way - I just saw it.
 

LA4Bama

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If it was going to exonerate him, wouldn't the guy have asked for the DNA test a long time ago? Did he ask for it years ago or just recently, because it is telling if he wants it only when a delay is actually in his interest.
 

MattinBama

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Anti-death penalty advocates have gone to great lengths to definitively identify someone from the modern era who was executed and was innocent, Roger Keith Coleman being probably the most famous failed example. But that is beside my point. Feel free to change the standard for the death penalty if you like and give people who make claims of actual innocence yet another appeal process, or have a higher standard for imposition of the death penalty itself, beyond not only a reasonable doubt but any doubt. Do whatever you want, because the vast majority of people on death row are unequivocally and admittedly guilty.

I'll give you two anecdotal examples, the last two death penalty cases I handled. In one, a man murdered his grandparents for money to buy drugs. His bedridden grandmother's last words to him were "I love you son." She said this after he'd murdered her husband in front of her and right before he cut her throat. In the other, a guy helped his best friend murder his friend's father, step-mother, and two step sisters, aged 5 and 7. They shot the father and step-mother, but ran out of bullets. So they got some kitchen knives and went upstairs to where the girls were hiding. They then used the kitchen knives to cut the girls' throats while they begged for their lives. And the reason they did all this? The friend had asked his father to borrow the car. When the man said no, he decided to kill him, and he had to kill the rest of the family to try and cover it up.

In my view, no society can claim itself just and not send those men to their deaths.
Telling horror stories isn't going to change the fact that our justice system gets it wrong entirely too often (not just in death row cases) for me to be comfortable with killing prisoners in most cases.

I used to be pro death penalty but I've seen far too many mistakes & outright corruption harming innocent individuals. I'm still torn on what burden of proof is needed to justify it but I don't think I would support it again until there is a complete overhaul of the justice system.

I don't trust confessions anymore & I don't trust circumstantial evidence. But people are being imprisoned & put to death on the basis of these things constantly,
 

MattinBama

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If it was going to exonerate him, wouldn't the guy have asked for the DNA test a long time ago? Did he ask for it years ago or just recently, because it is telling if he wants it only when a delay is actually in his interest.
It takes a long time to go through these processes (way longer than it should). He had been trying to get on with an innocence project as far back as 1996.

One of his lawyer's claims is ineffective counsel from his previous lawyers for not requesting modern DNA testing.

DNA testing has changed a lot so newer tests may not have been available until the last few years and then you have to start the whole glacially slow process of trying to get approved to test.
 

Jon

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Telling horror stories isn't going to change the fact that our justice system gets it wrong entirely too often (not just in death row cases) for me to be comfortable with killing prisoners in most cases.

I used to be pro death penalty but I've seen far too many mistakes & outright corruption harming innocent individuals. I'm still torn on what burden of proof is needed to justify it but I don't think I would support it again until there is a complete overhaul of the justice system.

I don't trust confessions anymore & I don't trust circumstantial evidence. But people are being imprisoned & put to death on the basis of these things constantly,
It costs far, far more to kill a prisoner than to lock him up for life.

it has zero deterrent effect

we get things wrong (as you mention)

for these reasons and more I also converted from pro death penalty to con
 

Jon

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Anti-death penalty advocates have gone to great lengths to definitively identify someone from the modern era who was executed and was innocent, Roger Keith Coleman being probably the most famous failed example. But that is beside my point. Feel free to change the standard for the death penalty if you like and give people who make claims of actual innocence yet another appeal process, or have a higher standard for imposition of the death penalty itself, beyond not only a reasonable doubt but any doubt. Do whatever you want, because the vast majority of people on death row are unequivocally and admittedly guilty.

I'll give you two anecdotal examples, the last two death penalty cases I handled. In one, a man murdered his grandparents for money to buy drugs. His bedridden grandmother's last words to him were "I love you son." She said this after he'd murdered her husband in front of her and right before he cut her throat. In the other, a guy helped his best friend murder his friend's father, step-mother, and two step sisters, aged 5 and 7. They shot the father and step-mother, but ran out of bullets. So they got some kitchen knives and went upstairs to where the girls were hiding. They then used the kitchen knives to cut the girls' throats while they begged for their lives. And the reason they did all this? The friend had asked his father to borrow the car. When the man said no, he decided to kill him, and he had to kill the rest of the family to try and cover it up.

In my view, no society can claim itself just and not send those men to their deaths.
I feel like in both these examples Death is too good for these scumbags. Put them in General population for the rest of their lives. If I had a choice between life with no parole in a federal prison and a painless death I take painless death 99/100 times
 

CajunCrimson

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It costs far, far more to kill a prisoner than to lock him up for life.

it has zero deterrent effect

we get things wrong (as you mention)

for these reasons and more I also converted from pro death penalty to con

Cases without the death penalty cost $740,000, while cases where the death penalty is sought cost $1.26 million. Maintaining each death row prisoner costs taxpayers $90,000 more per year than a prisoner in general population. There are 714 inmates on California's death row.
Costs of the Death Penalty | Death Penalty Information Center
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I googled it, and this came up from the Death Penalty Info Center. Seems like to reduce the cost, is to reduce the time spent on Death Row.
 

bamachile

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I feel like in both these examples Death is too good for these scumbags. Put them in General population for the rest of their lives. If I had a choice between life with no parole in a federal prison and a painless death I take painless death 99/100 times
You're not an institutionalized criminal.
 

selmaborntidefan

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It takes a long time to go through these processes (way longer than it should). He had been trying to get on with an innocence project as far back as 1996.

One of his lawyer's claims is ineffective counsel from his previous lawyers for not requesting modern DNA testing.
This is also one of my problems with the death penalty.

DNA testing has changed a lot so newer tests may not have been available until the last few years and then you have to start the whole glacially slow process of trying to get approved to test.
This is true regarding the DNA testing without a doubt.

In all seriousness, if OJ Simpson murdered those two nowadays given what people now know (or think they know) about DNA, he probably gets convicted even with the lousy prosecution by Clark and Darden. There were two tests used back then, the RFLP and the PCR (we use PCR as well to check the level of infection with viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis). It's still the same basic concepts but takes less time.

Btw - President Bush signed a new law giving criminals rights to DNA testing and years later the Roberts court ruled it wasn't a right to be determined by the courts but was to be determined by the legislature.

DNA does not totally prove someone DID do it, but it DOES exonerate the innocent if used and it's there.
 

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