We should not underestimate the bravery it took for Johnson Britt to not just stand up for justice for Henry McCollum and his brother, Leon Brown, but to also speak the truth about the death penalty: that it serves no good purpose in our criminal justice system.
As we celebrated a happy ending, the family of Sabrina Buie was beginning a new chapter of grief. Our broken criminal justice system has never allowed this family to heal. Instead of justice, they got a corrupt investigation and decades of painful court hearings that ended in nothing.
Henry McCollum’s attorney writes about defending an innocent man for 20 years. “I am angry that we live in a world where two disabled boys can have their lives stolen from them, where cops can lie and intimidate with impunity, where innocent people can be condemned to die and where injustice is so difficult to bring to light.”
30 years, 11 months, 5 days. That’s how long it took for Henry McCollum and Leon Brown to finally prove their innocence in a rape and murder for which they were sentenced to death. A judge declared both men innocent Tuesday and ordered their release.
Yesterday, a California court confirmed what we have known in North Carolina for years: The death penalty is so dysfunctional as to be not just unconstitutional, but futile. Most of the condemned live on death row for decades, making the punishment a costly farce.
An Ashe County man was spared death last week after prosecutors acknowledged a serious mistake in his case. The deal was unusual, and commendable, in a system where prosecutors often try to hold onto death sentences no matter what.
We like to think that a capital appeals process that lasts years weeds out all the wrongly-convicted inmates. Sadly, that’s just not true. No jury has ever heard the evidence that could prove Johnny Burr innocent.
If you still have doubts that the death penalty is losing popularity in the United States, this new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News should eradicate them. 52 percent of Americans said they support life in prison without parole as the maximum sentence for murder.
The last time a jury chose death in Wake County was in 2007. Since then, prosecutors have sought the death penalty for five defendants, and juries have chosen life without parole every time — even for the most serious crimes.
Do the legislators who want to restart executions in N.C. know what they’re suggesting? A primer on why we must find alternatives to the death penalty.