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DUPS Amicus: Wrongful Conviction of those on Death Row

Since 1973, more than 150 people in the United States have been released from death row due to evidence of a wrongful conviction.[1] The Amicus charity assists those facing capital trial and punishment in the US, and supported by the Amicus Pro Bono Project, it works to raise awareness that the ‘death penalty is disproportionately imposed on the most vulnerable in society, violating their right to due process and equal justice’. [2] One major cause of wrongful convictions are prosecutorial or police misconduct and critics of the death penalty argue that there are many cases where innocent individuals have been put to death. One recognised example is the case of Joe Arridy. Officially posthumously pardoned in January 2011 (72 years after his wrongful execution), Arridy had initially been charged as an accomplice to a murder that had taken place in Pueblo, Colorado in 1936.[3] The clemency order stated: ‘an overwhelming body of evidence indicates… [that] Arriddy was innocent, including false and coerced confessions, the likelihood that Arridy was not in Pueblo at the time of the killing, and an admission of guilt by someone else.’[4] Arridy, who suffered from an intellectual disability meaning he had an IQ of 46 was claimed to have confessed to the murder. This confession however, was heard by just one Sherriff and was filled with inaccuracies and contradictions to such an extent that a second false confession was required to be obtained before proceeding.[5] Governor of the State of Colorado, Bill Ritter, stated that pardoning Joe Arridy would not ‘undo this tragic event in Colorado history’ but that it was ‘in the interests of justice and simple decency… to restore his good name’.[6] One of the principle aims of the Amicus Charity is to expose abuses of the prosecution process against the most vulnerable in cases such as this. Although it is stated that ‘the law has evolved’ from this time, whilst the death penalty remains, ‘the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated’. [7]


Clare Birch-Palmer

DUPS Amicus

15 Feb, 2019


 

[1] Amnesty International, ‘Death Penalty and Innocence’ <https://www.amnestyusa.org/issues/death-penalty/death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-and-innocence/> accessed February 2019


[2] Amicus ALJ <http://www.amicus-alj.org/> accessed February 2019


[3] Death Penalty Information Centre, ‘Colarado Governor Grants Unconditional Pardon Based on Innocence to Inmate who was Executed’ <https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/executed-possibly-innocent#also> accessed February 2019


[4] Office of Gov. Bill Ritter, Jr., ‘Gov. Ritter Grants Posthumous Pardon in Case Dating Back to 1930s’ (2011) <https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/ArridyPardon.pdf> accessed February 2019


[5] Ibid


[6] Ritter (n 4)


[7] BBC, ‘Arguments Against Capital Punishment, Execution of the Innocent’ <http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/capitalpunishment/against_1.shtml#h3> accessed February 2019



The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes above.

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