Thursday, March 12, 2009

From a friend of Tompkins

Michael Lambrix has been on death row in Florida for 26 years. Today one of his journals is posted on the Death Row Journals blog here. He expresses sadness and disbelief over Wayne Tompkins' execution on February 11 of this year. Having known Tompkins personally, and referring to him by his Native American name "Grey Cloud," Lambrix explains that Tompkins' conviction was based entirely on circumstantial evidence, and he explains his more general misgivings over death sentences that are obtained all the time with such scant evidence. This was a particularly well-written section:

But nobody can deny that our judicial system is far less then perfect. In recent years at least 25 prisoners on Florida’s death row alone have been found to have been wrongfully convicted and then judicially exonerated and released from prison. Recently the ‘Innocence Project” has announced that just in the last decade they have proven the innocence of at least 200 men through DNA evidence. This undeniable virtual epidemic of injustice should compel any person of moral conscience to question the validity of any conviction based upon wholly circumstantial evidence. The fact is that as a civilized society we owe it to ourselves to insist that if we are going to put a person to death, there can not be any question of guilt. To allow any execution of a person whose guilt [is] in question will inevidently [sic] result in the execution of an innocent person.
The Maryland Senate took hesitant steps recently to assure that death sentences could only be handed down in cases where there was biological evidence, a taped confession, or a taped crime. That is a meaningful step, but it does not go far enough.

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