Monday, June 27, 2005

A CASE TO WATCH

Aug. 11, 2004115th

Death Row Exoneration Emphasizes the Need for a Moratorium on Executions

Issued by the OHIO MORATORIUM COMMITTEE A project of Ohioans to Stop Executions


Since 1973, 115 people in 25 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.

Mr. Ryan Matthews, freed from Louisiana’s death row on August 9th, becomes the 115th exoneree, the third death row inmate to be freed in 2004. The other 2004 exonerees were Alan Gell of North Carolina (February) and Gordan "Randy" Steidl of Illinois (May). In 2003, 10 persons were freed from death row in the United States, equaling the most exonerations in a single year since the death penalty was reinstated.

Mr. Mathews spent nearly 5 years on death row before DNA evidence exonerated him. "The growing number of innocence cases provides overwhelming evidence that the death penalty is far too risky," said Richard Dieter, Executive Director of DPIC. "Thank goodness for DNA testing – otherwise Ryan could be dead. One has to wonder about the many cases without such evidence."

There have been four exonerations [innocent people FREED from death row] in Ohio: Gary Beeman 1979, Dale Johnston 1990, Timothy Howard 2003 and Gary Lamar James 2003. One wonders how many innocent people are sitting on Ohio’s death row awaiting justice. Cases to follow include: Kenney Richey currently in Federal 6th Circuit and Joe D’Ambrosio before US District Court in Clevelend. Each could end up with a new trial based on evidence of innocence.

The Ohio Moratorium Campaign, a project of Ohioans to Stop Execution, calls for a moratorium on executions while studies can be done to examine the death penalty in Ohio. A recent UC Law School study noted, "The Ohio Case Study establishes that the death penalty system in Ohio contains a likelihood of executing the innocent, a high rate of reversible error, and an arbitrariness in the application of the death penalty." The report continues, "a moratorium and a high-level commission to study the death penalty is necessary to maintain the integrity of the Ohio justice system."

John Cranley of the Ohio Innocence Project notes, "Our system of justice, like humanity itself, is not perfect. Surely all of these exonerations demand that society re-examines its commitment to the death penalty." Over 75 state groups have joined the Ohio Moratorium Campaign in calling for a moratorium on the death penalty in Ohio.

To visit the ACLU, click the title of this story.