John H. Whitehead
English 128 Whitehead 1
1 December, 1999
A Moratorium on The Death Penalty Should Be Enacted In Illinois
Due to the recent releases of newly exonerated Death Row inmates,
individuals and organizations are calling for a moratorium- a cooling off
period for state executions. The cases of just a few inmates makes it
apparent that this would be a necessary step to save innocent lives.
After 17 years in prison, Illinois Death Row inmate Anthony Porter was
released from jail after a judge threw out his murder conviction following
the introduction of new evidence. This reversal of fortune came just two
days before Porter was to be executed. As reported in USA Today, Porter's
release was the result of investigative research as conducted by a
Northwestern University professor and students. The evidence gathered
suggested that Porter had been wrongly convicted.
Were these new revelations and the subsequent release of Porter a lucky
break or a freak occurrence? Not likely, reports DeWayne Wickham, also of
USA Today. He points out that since the reinstatement of the death penalty
in the United States in 1976, of those sentenced to death, 490 people have
been executed while 76 have been freed from Death Row. This calculates into
one innocent person being released from Death Row for every six individuals
that were executed. This figure correlates with the 1996 U.S. Department of
Justice report that indicates that over a 7-year period, beginning in 1989,
when DNA evidence in various cases was tested, 26% of primary suspects were
exonerated. This has led some to conclude that a similar percentage of
inmates presently serving time behind bars may have been wrongly convicted
prior to the advent of forensic DNA typing.
Amnesty International, in its 1998 report "Fatal Flaws: Innocence and the
Death Penalty", support...