Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bill Clutter: 20 million reasons to abolish death penalty

Bill Clutter is director of investigations for the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield. The following is a portion of an editorial written by Clutter, which was published in the January 2, 2011, edition of The State Journal-Register.

"The end of January will mark the 11-year anniversary of the moratorium on capital punishment in Illinois. The stunning revelation that 13 men on death row were actually innocent led to the decision to “temporarily” halt executions in order to study the flaws in the criminal justice system. Another six men, including Randy Steidl, who had been condemned to die were exonerated after the moratorium, bringing the total to 19.

The error rate in capital cases since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, after being briefly declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court for being disproportionately imposed on blacks, was roughly 10 percent.

My experience in the Jeanine Nicarico case, which accounted for two of the original 13 death row exonerees, demonstrated to me that the raw emotion involved in these horrific crimes overwhelms jurors. Emotion overcomes reason. Death penalty cases are different because of this."

Download a PDF of the full editorial