On Jan 10, the Dallas Morning News renewed its call for a halt to executions and a review of the system to ensure that innocent people are not being executed. This is at least the sixth time since 2001 that the DMN has called for a moratorium. You can read the other editorials on the TMN site, along with endorsements from every other major city newspaper in Texas. Everybody writing newspaper editorials seems to want Texas to take a time-out on executions in order to make sure we aren’t executing innocent people.
The DMN says:
Last week, Andrew Gossett became the 11th Dallas County man granted his freedom after DNA confirmed what he had been saying for seven years: He didn’t do it. Mr. Gossett had been sentenced to 50 years in prison for a sexual assault he did not commit.
That juries and judges are fallible is not a revelation. Human error is an inherent part of the system. Thank goodness that in the case of Mr. Gossett a terrible wrong has been corrected.
At the same time that this 46-year-old Garland man begins to rebuild his life, newspaper headlines note that January will be a particularly deadly month for Texas prisoners. The state is poised to execute five death row inmates during a 20-day stretch.
Against a backdrop of overturned convictions and DNA advances, these planned executions also should give us pause. For the condemned, evidence of an error could come too late. Lethal injections don’t allow those second chances.
And while improved technology and new evidence have cleared only a tiny fraction of prisoners, those cases serve notice that even the remote possibility of a mistake is unacceptable in death penalty cases.
At least 10 other states are reviewing their capital punishment laws. Two have declared a moratorium.
But Texas has pressed on, accounting for nearly half of the executions in the country last year.
Lawmakers have dismissed our calls for a death penalty moratorium. But the frailties in the justice system that have been exposed suggest that it’s time to revisit this issue.
When Mr. Gossett was set free last week, newly elected District Attorney Craig Watkins was in the courtroom. He thought it was important to tell Mr. Gossett, “We’re sorry.”
State officials won’t have that opportunity if capital punishment is meted out incorrectly.