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Perry Ignores Reality in Death Penalty Debate

Perry Ignores Reality in Death Penalty Debate September 12, 2011

Rick Perry told the nation during the recent Republican presidential debate that he’s never struggled at all with the fact that he has had more people put to death under his time in office than any governor in American history. He’s perfectly fine with it and has no doubt that no innocent man has ever been put to death under his watch. Now let’s compare that attitude to reality.

During Perry’s time in office, at least 41 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence. In 35 of those cases, the person was convicted on the basis of faulty eyewitness testimony. An illogical person would say, “See, that proves that the system works and prevents innocent people from being executed.” Wrong.

Why is that wrong? Because DNA evidence only exists in a very small percentage of cases. Unless you are prepared to believe that the faulty eyewitness testimony and other normal types of evidence used to convict people every day only exist in cases where there is DNA evidence — which is utterly irrational — then you must logically conclude that those same kinds of unreliable evidence are used to convict other innocent people quite routinely. Heck, you can’t even assume that a confession is absolute proof that someone committed a murder because a full 25 percent of the DNA exonerations in this country were in cases where the innocent person confessed to the crime, always under duress.

If that many innocent people were found to have been convicted in the roughly two percent of cases where there was DNA evidence that could be tested, there must be hundreds and hundreds of innocent people convicted of major crimes in Texas in the other 98 percent of cases. And if Perry isn’t at all bothered by that, he’s either ignoring the evidence or he lacks any moral compass whatsoever.

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