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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Chicago Tribune cites Texas innocence cases in call to abolish the death penalty

The Chicago Tribune published an editorial today reversing that paper's support for the death penalty and calling for the abolition of the death penalty, in part because of two Texas cases in which innocent people were likely executed, Carlos De Luna and Cameron Todd Willingham.

This newspaper has done groundbreaking reporting on cases that suggest innocent people have been executed.

Cameron Todd Willingham was put to death in Texas in 1994 for the arson murders of his three daughters. Willingham claimed he was innocent, and now several arson experts believe the case against him was built on scientifically invalid evidence. The fire that killed Willingham's children may have been an accident.

Carlos De Luna was executed in Texas in 1989 for the murder of a gas station clerk, though no forensic evidence linked him to the crime. Now evidence points to another man, Carlos Hernandez, who bragged to relatives and friends that De Luna was convicted for a murder Hernandez committed.
The editorial concludes:
The evidence of mistakes, the evidence of arbitrary decisions, the sobering knowledge that government can't provide certainty that the innocent will not be put to death--all that prompts this call for an end to capital punishment. It is time to stop killing in the people's name.

The Texas Legislature has about two months left in its current session to take action on the question of whether Texas has executed innocent people. The very real probability that innocent people have been executed in Texas should be dealt with as a statewide emergency that requires a moratorium on executions and a death penalty study commission.

The chair of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee should immediately schedule a hearing on HB 809, which would enact a two-year moratorium and create a study commission.

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