Human beings are fallible, right? We're not perfect. Therefore we might deduce that human institutions are equally fallible and imperfect. This is the nature of the human condition. AND YET some people believe that the death penalty - a final and irreversible condemnation of one human being by others, can be immune from human error. An exemplar case of human imperfection and the dangers of the death penalty is that of Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Mr. Graves was falsely accused at his trial in 1994 of assisting in the murder of a mother, daughter and four children. He was incriminated by the actual murderer, Robert Earl Carter, who afterwards confessed that he had lied. Nevertheless, the prosecutor, in an extremely flawed and imperfect case, manipulated the jury into finding Graves guilty, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. Graves, an innocent man, was condemned to death.
Carter once again confirmed Graves' innocence while on his death bed in 2000, but the prosecution refused to concede that they could possibly have gotten anything wrong.
Graves spent 12 years on death row in Texas until his sentence was reversed in 2006 because of "prosecutorial misconduct." Since then, Graves and his attorney, with the assistance of the Texas Innocence Project and students of St. Thomas University, had been collecting evidence to support his claim of innocence. Meanwhile, a new district attorney was also re-examining the case and finally on Wednesday, October 27th, dropped all charges against Graves, claiming that his office could find no evidence against him and conceded that Graves "is an innocent man …. There is nothing that connects Anthony Graves to this crime."
Unfortunately, it was relatively easy to get Graves convicted and much more difficult to establish his innocence. This is quite alarming, and one has to wonder how many more innocent people are losing their lives, waiting behind bars--hoping to prove their innocence.
And how many innocent people have been and may be killed for crimes they did not commit? Nationally, including Graves, 139 men and women have been released from death rows across the country. Allowing the agents of the state to kill a man or woman in the name of justice ignores human fallibility.
It is dangerous to allow human beings to act like God. Better to act like mere mortals and avoid using the ultimate penalty altogether, leaving room to correct human error.
Posted in Blog, Innocence
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