For twelve years Randall Adams was convicted and imprisoned for a murder he did not commit. Randall was charged for the killing of a police officer in Dallas, Texas, and, after a false testimony by a 16-year-old, was found guilty (Warnick). It was only seventy-two hours before his scheduled execution that was he found not guilty because of the work of Errol Morris, a movie director. Through interviews with police officers and court officials, Morris was able to note many contradictions. Enough that the State of Texas re-opened the case and found Adams not guilty and released him from prison (Silverman 4).
There are many other stories like Randall’s where innocent people have been sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit. Randall’s story is wonderful because he is eventually released. However, not every innocent man is lucky enough to be set free. Even though capital punishment was outlawed at the national level in 1968 it was re-instated in 1976. Now each state can choose whether or not to use it as a form of punishment. Currently thirty-eight states that allow the death penalty in the United States of America and a combination of five different methods of execution. These methods consist of lethal injection, electric chair, gas chamber, hanging, and firing squad. Since the re-instatement, there have been 587 executions, most in the past six years (Capital Punishment 1-2). No one is sure how many of these were falsely accused inmates.
So what is being done to make sure the innocent stay innocent and that it is the guilty people who are being punished? While many people say that capital punishment is not right and should be done away with, others say it is the best punishment to sentence a murderer. However, Both sides are taking interest in execution moratoriums.
Slowly, the popularity of capital punishment has been declining since 1994 when seventy-five percent of the population of the United States approved of it. Now public support is close to sixty-six percent and even ten percent lower than that if an alternative to execution were life imprisonment without parole (Rimer 2-3). Many have asked what is causing this downward trend in the approval of capital punishment. Lots of people are finding out about cases such as Randall Adams and realizing that innocent people do get convicted and most are executed. Rather than abolishing capital punishment, most supporters would rather have a temporary stop in executions to make sure the justice system is properly run (Rimer 3). This popular opinion is a major reason that a moratorium in executions is gaining more support and that capital punishment is becoming less popular.
A moratorium is a suspension or a delay and, in today’s society, people would like the sentence to have a longer waiting period or temporary halt in which the defendant is able to find evidence proving that he is innocent, such as DNA (Rimer 3). The idea of a moratorium is not new but it has become particularly popular in the past few years. In 1999 the United States executed ninety-eight prisoners, a forty-four percent increase since 1998, which only had sixty-eight executions (Capital Punishment 2). This made 1999 the year with the most executions since 1951 when 105 inmates were executed (Snell 1). Of all of these executions, no one is certain how many people were innocent when executed.
Rod Autrey, a city councilman of Charlotte, N.C., said, “It’s apparent to me that those with little resources are not going to get the same treatment as others” (qtd. in Rimer 1). This statement shows that he believes many people cannot afford competent lawyers to defend themselves. Because of the lack of resources and good legal assistance, people are realizing that there may be a greater possibility of being falsely accused. This is another reason that support for a moratorium is growing.
Another reason for the support’s growth is the known history of actually executing innocent people. Governor George Ryan illustrates this in Illinois. He stated he was concerned for his state’s “shameful record of convicting innocent people and putting them on death row” (National Perspective 2).
With the large number of people on death row and the history of falsely convicting people, many citizens would like to see capital punishment abolished. However, there are too many people who favor it. But the solution that both sides can agree on is a moratorium. With all of the technology for DNA testing, the moratorium of death row will help innocent people stay alive and only the guilty people get convicted.