all credits: TribLIVE Online
published: 21 April 2016
Thirty years ago, Keith Allen Harward narrowly avoided a death sentence. Thanks to DNA evidence, he recently walked out of the Virginia prison where he has spent half of his life for a brutal rape and murder he didn’t commit.
Stories of possible judicial failure are in vogue; the viral “Serial” podcast and Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” have triggered passionate debate. While the twists are intoxicating, the sobering reality is that our criminal justice system is, and always will be, imperfect.
The National Registry of Exonerations has catalogued more than 1,700 cases of people wrongly convicted and later cleared of all charges based on new evidence of innocence. Most don’t even make the news. While every wrongful conviction has consequences, with capital punishment an error can be fatal.
Since 1976, more than 150 people, including six in Pennsylvania, have been sentenced to death despite their innocence. Given these judicial failures, it is reckless to continue to cling to the death penalty.
It is not only possible that we will execute an innocent person, it is likely. We cannot consume judicial injustices as entertainment while choosing to ignore their real-life implications.