And those are only the ones we've caught. I wish there were a good way to estimate how many other innocents are floating around out there who have never been granted relief. I've had several clients who I was confident were innocent and none of them have gotten relief. I think my experience is about average, so if each of my colleagues averages 3 innocent clients in 10 years, that adds up.
I just shudder to think of such crimes of conviction when innocent, and I suppose no one was held accountable for putting someone in jain or prison or killing someone who was innocent. Can't even imagine being in prison for 35 years and then being let out when found innocent of the crime. The longest prisoner I had in my classroom was 19 years and I had to teach him how to handle money, dress for interviews, and conduct interviews ... just everything. He was guilty of murder but he had been a hot-headed kid when he killed the guy. In my classroom, he was a gentle, quiet, kind, thoughtful fellow. I wonder what he could have done with his life.
One of my prisoner students was exactly my age. I would ask him, "where were you when Kennedy was shot?" "in prison" he answered, or man landed on the moon? "in prison", or the Watergate break-
in? "In prison." Jeeze!
Strange, both of these men had qualities one could admire and respect. They were real gentlemen to me, and worked very hard to be ready for their release dates.
This doesn't even come close to comparing with being charged guilty when innocent. Execution is out of the realm of understanding. How would they manage, knowing the needle contained the means of their deaths.
At the same time, I remember Ted Bundy, Robert Lee Yates, Dwayne Elton, and of course Spokane's own Kevin Coe. I think I could put the needle into these guys.
One of the prisons I frequented when I was in law school was built in the 19th century and still had the old brick wall, instead of the newer style chain link and barbed wire fence. A client told me he had been in that particular prison for so long, he had forgotten what tree trunks looked like because all he could see was the tops of the trees. Now imagine if that guy had been innocent. Yikes.
And, Joan, thank you for your work with inmates.
The system depends on humans, which means it has human failings and human flaws. I agree with Joan, about the Kafkaesque experience of being executed wrongfully. Thinking about "why me" and life being unfair. And the person who committed the crime is still out there, possibly having committed other crimes. Of course, lots of guilty people insist on their innocence, but still, seems there should always be diligence to ensure the innocent are not jailed, if jailed wroongfully they should be set free, and the "system" should make some sort of restitution.
The worst part of this story is the number of people wrongfully convicted after perjured testimony or false eye-witness testimony. There is little doubt that prejudices—most notably racism—still has way more to do with determining guilt or innocence than most people care to acknowledge.