I’m sure many people have read the story about mentally disabled half brothers Henry McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46, who were convicted in 1984 of raping and killing an 11-year-old girl in North Carolina. That girl, 11 year-old Sabrina Buie, had been raped and suffocated with her underwear crammed down her throat, her body left in a soybean field. One of them was on death row for the crime and the other was sentenced to life imprisonment. The crime is certainly one that many people would feel passionately should deserve the ultimate punishment but there is one big issue…these two men were completely innocent.
Yesterday a judge ordered that they be released after spending three decades in jail. DNA evidence from the crime had been tested and it ruled out both men and implicated another man who is currently in prison for another crime. That man lived only a block away from where the body was found and was arrested and convicted of a very similar crime weeks after the body for this crime was discovered, however the prosecutor never even looked at him believing that he had the right people and that was that.
The lead prosecutor still believed up to a week ago that the right people were convicted, you have to worry that people like Joe Freeman Britt are allowed in positions of power. He was a bible quoting DA who sought the death penalty more than any other DA in his era, I know I struggle to believe that a Christian could be so tied to the death penalty but there you go.
One of the two men, Mr McCollom confessed to the crime following a marathon interrogation where they weren’t allowed to see their family or a lawyer. They initially came under suspicion because they were new to the small town and people saw them as outsiders. Long story short, there was no evidence against these two young men and yet one of them has spent thirty years on Death Row and to most people he should’ve been executed a long time ago. Those people no doubt would feel very little remorse today.
People will tell me that one wrong conviction shouldn’t mean anything and that mistakes happen. Mistakes do happen but if the state put to death an innocent person then that is just not on. Just because it is someone that you don’t know doesn’t mean you should feel any differently about it. If it was someone you knew that had been falsely convicted of a crime based on shaky (at best) evidence but the raw emotion had led to a jury filing a guilty verdict and a judge because of the emotion of the case imposing a death penalty then how would you feel?
The death penalty is something that I cannot stomach because of cases like these. When people say to me that it should only be used for people who are ‘guilty guilty’ and do ‘horrific crimes’ then I try and point out that we only have two verdicts in the UK, ‘Guilty’ and ‘Not Guilty’, there is no ‘Guilty Guilty’ verdict for people that are just clearly guilty of a crime. Also the people that make up a jury are human beings, they can be influenced my emotion.
I have been on a jury and have seen such a thing where people wanted to convict solely based on the crime they were accused of and not on the evidence presented. The jury system is the best we have but it isn’t perfect and in the US of A the jury can impose the death penalty in certain states and situations.
State sanctioned murder is not for me. Not for people who have committed horrific crimes and nor for those who actually hadn’t done so. Making mistakes happens to us all and sending innocent people to prison happens but they can get released and still live their lives. If they are put to death and then found they are innocent then there is no recourse.
Bringing back the Death Penalty in the UK would lead to nasty people being killed by the state but it would also no doubt lead to innocent people being put to death as well and I’d like to know what ratio of nasty people to innocent people being put to death would be acceptable to people who back the death penalty because to me, even one innocent person being slain is one too many.
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