Jewish World Review June 30, 2000 / 27 Sivan, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE CLAIM that DNA evidence has proved hordes of prisoners "innocent" is just the latest gambit from a ferocious anti-death penalty lobby trying to bamboozle the American people into thinking the administration of capital sentences is a crapshoot.
The arguments against the death penalty, puffed up with phony statistics and false facts, have been pouring forth for decades now. Some years ago anti-death penalty advocates pushed the insanity defense: Yes, the crazed murderers on death row had committed murder, but it wasn't their fault -- they're ill. When that defense failed to capture a large constituency of Americans, the death penalty fanatics turned to the old liberal standby: racism.
They claimed blacks were more likely to receive the death penalty than whites, which worked on a few judges for a little while. But then it turned out to be false. Compared to the percentage of murders committed by blacks and whites, more white murderers than black murderers are sentenced to death. (Also, by the way, white murderers are executed with greater alacrity than black murderers.)
So the capital punishment opponents thought and thought and thought and -- eureka! -- they realized they could still claim racism by turning the racial disparity claim on its head. Since black murderers were less likely to get the death penalty than white murderers and since murderers tend to murder within their own race, this meant a capital defendant was more likely to get death if his victim was white! The argument straightfacedly reported in the willing media was that the American justice system placed a higher value on white lives since the murderers of whites (i.e., whites) were more likely to receive a capital sentence than the murderers of blacks (i.e., blacks).
If more blacks are executed than similarly situated white criminals, the system is racist, and the death penalty must be halted. If more whites are executed than similarly situated black criminals, the system is racist, and the death penalty must be halted. This makes it easy to keep up with the criminal defense lobby's new arguments since, no matter what the facts, the conclusion is always the same.
The breathless reports of prisoners being released from death row after DNA testing is just the latest salvo from a movement that wants to end the imposition of the death penalty under any circumstances, for any murderer, no matter how heinous and no matter how guilty.
It is true that DNA can be very, very reliable as to the source of blood or semen at a crime scene. Like a fingerprint, if your DNA is there it probably means you did it. But if it's not there, it doesn't mean you didn't do it. The blood or semen is only one piece of evidence. Whether it was a relevant, much less crucial, piece of evidence depends on the facts that persuaded the jury to convict.
Unless the sole piece of evidence the jury relied on was the blood or semen at the crime scene -- which later turns out not to belong to the defendant -- there is no reason to think the jury would not have convicted even had it known of the DNA mismatch. And it is highly unlikely that blood or semen would have been a crucial evidentiary linchpin for the jury. In the absence of DNA testing, all the blood or semen sample could tell the jurors is the blood type.
The DNA evidence may suggest a different theory for how the crime was committed than that postulated by the prosecution. (Criminals so rarely capture their crimes on videotape!) It may change the assumption about the number of perpetrators or the manner in which the crime occurred. And, most pertinent, it may raise doubts about whether the jury would have found the defendant guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." But that doesn't mean the defendant was "proved innocent." All it means is he gets out of prison.
As the entire country ought to know after the O.J. trial, not being in prison doesn't mean you're innocent. The criminal justice system is rigged to allow the guilty to go free constantly. At each step, the legal ratchet favors the accused.
This is especially true in capital cases, which is why so few murderers are ever executed. Since the Supreme Court established new procedures for imposition of the death penalty in 1977, fewer than 1 percent of all convicted killers have been executed. More death row inmates will have their sentences reduced than will be executed. More death row prisoners will die of causes other than execution than be executed. And there is still not a single established case of an innocent person being executed in the past
JWR contributor Ann Coulter is the author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton. You may visit the Ann Coulter Fan Club by clicking here.
06/27/00: The last guys 'proved innocent'