Jury Error Can Be Case of Life, Death

The mistaken imprisonment of Kevin Lee Green should provide a clear message about the death penalty.

Yes, prosecutors, jurors and judges will make mistakes. We live in an imperfect world inhabited by imperfect people whose decisions are often influenced by emotions and gut feelings. Mr. Green is now free, might even be able to rebuild his life, but what would have happened had he been condemned to die and already been executed? After all, we know that between 1973 and 1993, 48 convicts have been freed from death row thanks to new evidence.

Some people might allow for faster verdicts when defendants confess their crimes. Yet, law enforcement personnel are familiar with unstable people who “confess” to crimes--especially notorious ones--that they did not commit, and individuals with diminished mental capacity who were executed.

As support of the death penalty has become an important political litmus test, perhaps we could institute changes in courts. One suggestion is to provide a short summary of the Kevin Lee Green saga to each juror sitting on capital trials.