I’m the reason [the] death penalty should be outlawed—-I was the 100th person to be exonerated and released after being sentenced to death. Can we doubt there are more of us?
A Maricopa County judge sentenced me to death in 1992.
At the time of the murder for which I was convicted, the actual perpetrator, Ken Phillips, was on probation for a violent sexual offense. Three weeks after the crime for which I was sentenced to die, he sexually assaulted and choked a 7-year-old girl. He matched the description of a man seen near the location of the murder; it was later determined that shoe prints, palm prints and blood found at the scene matched him as well.
After more than 10 years in prison, I was finally exonerated. I walked out of prison with a gate check for $50. I lost my home, U.S. Postal Service job, my personal possessions and 10 years of my life. Arizona has no compensation for wrongful convictions.
Henry McCollum spent 30 years on death row before being exonerated. The real killer, a known violent sexual predator who lived near the scene of the crime, was never a suspect. This same man raped and killed a teenage girl 4 weeks after the murder in McCollum’s case.
Until the governor of North Carolina grants McCollum a pardon, he won’t receive any compensation. He depends on donations for food, shelter and clothing.
Ricky Jackson spent 39 years on death row because police threatened to jail the parents of a 12-year-old boy if he didn’t testify against Jackson after he told them he had lied about seeing Jackson kill a man. Until a county judge affirms that he was wrongfully imprisoned, he won’t receive any compensation.
Debra Jean Milke spent 23 years on death row. The main evidence against her was a police officer who testified under oath that she had confessed to him. There was no physical evidence, no money trail, no signed confession, no voice or video tape, and no witnesses to this confession. Jurors weren’t told that this man had a history that included lying under oath (that’s perjury when you do it).
Milke and I had the same prosecutor.
The media devotes hundreds of hours of television coverage and equivalent print exposure to capital murder trials. Every detail of the crime, the victim and the accused are discussed.
Exonerations are relegated to 60-second “feel good” stories, without interest or outrage about how an innocent person ended up on death row, or how they’ll survive after release.
I left prison wearing the clothes in which I was arrested. I still had a family, so I had a place to go. Others may find themselves alone and homeless after being exonerated. Compensation isn’t automatic or immediate. Physical and mental health issues after years of isolation in a death row cell make it difficult to assimilate.
The idea that the death of one person negates the loss of another is what keeps many people supporting capital punishment. That’s just not true.
The death penalty has no place in our society. It is a tool used by prosecutors to justify bigger budgets, win votes and ensure their continued employment. Family members opposed to capital punishment are not allowed to say so during victim impact statements. Only jurors who support the death penalty sit on capital murder trials.
Prosecutors have immunity when they withhold evidence and knowingly present perjured testimony. Innocent people have to fight for compensation.
Prosecutors like to say that an exoneration is proof the system works. I disagree, and I believe that the more than 150 innocent people who have been sentenced to death would disagree as well.
Ray Krone of Phoenix was the 100th death row inmate to win exoneration after DNA proved his innocence and is now Director of Membership and Training for Witness to Innocence.
Source: The Wausau Daily Herald