The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) reports on the fourth and fifth exonerations of 2009. The word "exoneration" is a term of art that indicates that the State itself has decided that the prisoner in question did not, in fact, commit the homicide -- in other words, that an innocent man or woman has been held on death row.
DPIC's article gives the details on these exonerations:
The risk that innocent people could be executed remains high, as illustrated by the two most recent exonerations from death row. Ronald Kitchen was freed from prison Illinois after the state dismissed all charges against him on July 7. He had spent 13 years on death row and a total of 21 years in prison. Governor George Ryan had commuted his sentence to life in 2003, along with all other death row inmates.
Kitchen's original conviction was derived largely from a coerced confession, having been subjected to a torturous interrogation under the supervision of the notorious police Commander Jon Burge. Herman Lindsey was freed from Florida's death row on July 9 after the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled for his acquittal.
The court noted: "[T]he State failed to produce any evidence in this case placing Lindsey at the scene of the crime at the time of the murder. Indeed, we find that the evidence here is equally consistent with a reasonable hypothesis of innocence." Lindsey was convicted in 2006, clearly indicating that wrongful convictions continue to occur in capital cases.
There have now been 5 exonerations in 2009, the other three being Nathson Fields in Illinois, Paul House in Tennessee, and Daniel Moore in Alabama. Exonerations have occurred in 26 states. Since the start of 2000, there have been 51 exonerations. During that same time, there have 572 executions, indicating a disturbing error ratio. There were 4 exonerations in 2008.
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