In my lifetime, there have been at least 891 miscarriages of justice. Though that number is frighteningly large, it is not entirely unexpected.
No matter how perfect a system of law and order we create – and I believe we have one of the best, if not the best, in the world – it is inevitable that our system will produce a wrongful conviction.
The statistics released by the National Registry of Exonerations is particularly alarming when you remember that 33 states still execute citizens found guilty of committing capital crimes.
Even the staunchest of the death penalty’s supporters must admit that the United States has, on more than one occasion, executed an innocent man. And with a track record of 891 wrongful convictions in a mere 23 years, how many of those innocent men could have been executed by the State for a crime they didn’t commit?
What we must focus on and what we must ask ourselves is whether or not we will stand for a system of justice that allows for the state-sanctioned death of an innocent man.
In 1989, Carlos DeLuna had the misfortune of sharing the name and looks of Carlos Hernandez.
When I say DeLuna looked like Hernandez, I am not speaking of some Texan subliminal racism that found two Hispanic men to look similar. I mean that DeLuna’s own family had trouble distinguishing him from Hernandez in photographs.
In 1989, DeLuna was executed by the State of Texas for a 1983 murder that evidence now indicates Hernandez committed. Unlikely? Perhaps. But 891 other wrongfully convictions demonstrate it is not impossible. Imagine that was you.
As long as capital punishment remains legal in the United States, the specter of the inevitable execution of another innocent citizen hangs over our heads. Alabama’s skies can never truly be blue until we are assured that no innocent man will ever be put to death by the government. I ask that we dare defend that right.
Alexander B. Roberson