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March 14, 2016

Interesting moment concerning Hillary Clinton and the death penalty at CNN town hall

I largely stopped watching much TV coverage of the Prez campaign except on election nights, in part because crime and justice issues continue to get precious little attention in debates or in coverage of what the various candidates might do if elected.  But, as reported here, last night's CNN town hall included a notable exchange concerning the death penalty:

An exonerated former death row inmate challenged Hillary Clinton on Sunday night to defend her continued support for capital punishment in some instances despite cases in which innocent people have been wrongly convicted.

"I came perilously close to my own execution," Ricky Jackson said during the CNN-TV One town hall event Sunday at Ohio State University, where he described the circumstances of his case and exoneration. He asked the Democratic front-runner, "In light of what I just shared with you and in light of the fact that there are documented cases of innocent people who have been executed in our country, I would like to know how you can still take your stance on the death penalty in light of what you know right now?"

In 2014, Jackson was freed after spending nearly four decades in prison for a crime he did not commit.  Convicted at the age of 18 for the 1975 killing of a money-order salesman in Cleveland, the Ohio man was exonerated after the prosecution's key witness, only 12 years old when he gave his damning account to police, recanted in court.

Calling his a profoundly difficult question, Clinton first criticized the states, saying they "have proven themselves incapable of carrying out fair trials that give defendants the rights that defendants should have."

"I've said I would breathe a sigh of relief if either the Supreme Court or the states themselves began to eliminate the death penalty."

But the former secretary of state did not retreat from her broader position.  "Where I end up is this, and maybe it's a distinction that is hard to support, but at this point, given the choices we face from terrorist activities primarily in our country that end up under federal jurisdiction, for very limited purposes, I think it can still be held in reserve for those."

Clinton referenced the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, an act of domestic terrorism that killed 168 people, as one example of the kind of crime she considered punishable by death.  "That is the exception that I still am struggling with, and it would only be in the federal system," she said.

Interestingly, this afternoon CNN just published this commentary authored by Ricky Jackson under the headline "Exonerated death row inmate: Clinton wrong on death penalty." Here is an excerpt from the later part of the commentary:

I know that the death penalty does not deter.  That can no longer be seriously debated. I also know that it is very expensive at a time when states are struggling financially and many are on the brink of bankruptcy.  As an expensive government program with no proven track record of effectiveness, it is, indeed, the proverbial "bridge to nowhere." But I also know that it sends innocent people to death row, and sometimes kills them.

Some of those likely innocents, such as Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos DeLuna, have been executed at the hands of the government.  Other innocent inmates -- in fact more than 150 of them -- have been lucky enough to have been exonerated and freed before their execution.

Furthermore, I learned from my time on death row that even the guilty are worthy of salvation. As an innocent and scared 18-year-old boy sent to death row, it was only the kindness and humanity of death row's guilty, who took me under their collective wing, that kept my sanity and maintained my faith in humanity.  These inmates made horrible mistakes, and deserved to be punished, but they are not the animals our criminal justice makes them out to be.

A society should not be judged on how it treats its best, but rather on how it treats is lowest.  And even the lowest are capable of incredible acts of humanity and are worthy of decency.  They are worthy of God's grace, just as they bestowed grace upon me.

When I asked Clinton why she still supports the death penalty, she said she supported it only for the worst of the worst: those who committed acts of mass killing or terrorism.  I cannot accept that.  In cases such as those, the societal pressure to convict is at its highest.  And when an intense pressure to convict is present, that is when the risk of convicting an innocent is greatest.  The death penalty is also not a deterrent in terrorism cases.  In fact, death can serve the purpose of many terrorists who wish to become "martyrs" for their cause.

During all the decades I sat in prison as an innocent man, I saw societal views gradually change.  Not too many years ago, a Democratic candidate could not publicly support same-sex marriage and stand a chance of getting elected in a general election.  Now, a Democratic candidate could not be taken seriously if he or she didn't support same-sex marriage.

Likewise, no serious Democratic candidate should be able to support the death penalty. We have evolved. We have seen the evidence that the death penalty doesn't work and that it kills the innocent.  Given this evidence, it is time that no candidate -- Democrat or Republican -- should be taken seriously if he or she supports capital punishment.

The fact that Clinton continues to hang on to this antiquated relic confuses me.  She touts "criminal justice reform" -- and much reform is needed -- but she misses one of the lowest hanging pieces of fruit.  I said last night that I am an "undecided" voter.  I hope that Clinton reconsiders her position on capital punishment before I do what I have been waiting my entire life to do: cast my first presidential vote as a free and vindicated man.

March 14, 2016 at 07:02 PM | Permalink


Mr. Jackson is correct •
The death penalty does not DETER killing or capital murder •

Several years ago I had the opportunity , the means , and the motive to kill_en1 a rogue , tyrannical trial judge ; who according to John of Salisbury , not only was deserving of tyrannicide_en2 , but was the subject of the DUTY of the State (not I) to kill him •

The primary reason for NOT killing him , was my Mother’s teachings from the Bible , and my belief that killing at that moment would have been unfair ; he was in a coma on life support •

Anywho , he died within several weeks of my encounter , w/o traumatic intervention of others •
▲ Don’t tangle with KARMA ▲

EN1→A jury of my “true peers” , perhaps would have ruled , “What took him so long?”

At worst , if acted , I should have been allowed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and received lifetime non-reporting probation , provided that I did not kill any more death deserving , rogue , tyrannical judges ☺

EN2→5. Policraticus_en3
5.3 Tyrannicide

EN3→5. Policraticus

The Policraticus is John's massive, eight-book attempt to discuss all aspects of ethical and political life. Its topics vary from whether it is permissible to kill a tyrant to whether it is permissible to tell off-color jokes at dinner parties.

As always , Kindly & Respectfully submitted ,
Nemo Me Impune Lacessit

Posted by: Docile Jim Brady „ the Nemo Me ♠ Impune Lacessit ♂ in Oregon ‼ | Mar 14, 2016 7:33:54 PM

"In cases such as those, the societal pressure to convict is at its highest. And when an intense pressure to convict is present, that is when the risk of convicting an innocent is greatest."

Does anyone doubt this? Is there a good argument against it?

Posted by: George | Mar 14, 2016 9:05:01 PM


The problem with this claim is that it is non-responsive to the instance cited by Mrs. Clinton. It's not merely the case that the OK bombing was the worst of the worst, it is also the case that there was no reasonable doubt as to their guilt. So "pressure" is not a relevant consideration.

Posted by: Daniel | Mar 14, 2016 10:59:35 PM

The death penalty will not only be used when there is "no reasonable doubt as to their guilt" especially when "guilt" here means "warranting [unlike even for people who support the death penalty most murders] the death penalty."

We will not only convict and execute the Timothy McVeighs and that level crime will sometimes result in problems. Because the death penalty is not only going to be applied with a scalpel. If it's there, it's going to be overused and misused, especially for Oklahoma City level crime where there will be additional pressures.

And, even for that crime, someone else didn't get the death penalty.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 14, 2016 11:19:21 PM

Daniel, Joe said it already, but to rephrase it.

Timothy McVeigh was guilty, so does that make this sentence false? "And when an intense pressure to convict is present, that is when the risk of convicting an innocent is greatest."

The gist of Clinton's argument seems to be that the DP should be a federal matter, one reserved for the feds, because the states are so bad at it.


Posted by: George | Mar 15, 2016 1:54:43 AM

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