Request a Free Consultation

En Español

Call or Text for a Free Consultation: 480-280-8028


Request a Free Consultation

Law Offices of David A. Black logo

En Español

  1. Blog
  2. Death Penalty
  3. Wrongful Convictions and the Death Penalty

Wrongful Convictions and the Death Penalty

May 7, 2018 | Death Penalty, Wrongful Convictions

Last week, death row exonerees gathered in Phoenix to call for an end to the death penalty. The death penalty has long been a topic of disagreement among those who are involved in the criminal justice system, as well as those who are simply members of the public expressing their individual views.

The typical arguments in favor of the death penalty center on the fact that it is reserved for the most heinous crimes, that it is necessary to promote moral order, that it fulfills society’s need for deterrence and retribution, and that it provides closure for family members and others close to the victim. Theoretically, at least, some the arguments in favor of the death penalty are not difficult for many folks to accept. But there have always been what we believe are stronger arguments against the practice of taking a person’s life within the structure of the criminal justice system.

Some of these arguments against capital punishment include:

  • Disproportionate racial impact. Approximately 40% of death row inmates are black. That’s three times the percentage in the general population.
  • Attorney quality. The quality of legal representation may be the single most important factor in determining whether a defendant will be sentenced to death.
  • Morality. The moral argument appears on both sides of the ledger, with the anti-death penalty group arguing that killing the defendant is simply morally reprehensible, and panders to feelings of vengeance.

But the most compelling reason of all against the death penalty is that wrongful convictions do occur, and in greater numbers than you might think. When an innocent person is put to death, that mistake is irrevocable. Let’s look at the numbers and causes of wrongful convictions in these cases.

Over the last 45 years, more than 160 death row inmates have been found to be innocent of the crimes of which they had been convicted. The reasons vary, but the following are the contributing causes to those wrongful convictions:

  • Official misconduct, including prosecutorial and police misconduct.
  • Perjury (and false accusations).
  • False/misleading forensic evidence.
  • Inadequate legal representation.
  • False confessions.
  • Mistaken eyewitness identification.

We think it would be absurd to suggest that the 162 people who were freed represent the only wrongful convictions in death penalty cases. And while we appreciate the other arguments against the death penalty, the fact that any person could be put to death for a crime he or she did not commit provides the strongest basis for its abolition.

Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(480) 280-8028