Thursday, April 3, 2008

Seven is not a lucky number

He ate bologna when the State of North Carolina let him out. It was his first meal on the outside. But he had been served bologna by the state for nearly 14 years, as he sat on death row, an innocent man.
Glen Chapman, 40, was released from Central Prison this week after Catawba County District Attorney James Gaither Jr. dismissed murder charges against him. The state, which prosecuted and convicted Chapman, fouled up.

Here’s what the News & Observer reported:

“A lead investigator, Dennis Rhoney, lied in his testimony about Chapman’s
involvement. Rhoney withheld evidence from prosecutors that would have proved
Chapman’s innocence.

Chapman’s trial lawyers did not investigate the case
thoroughly, overlooking key evidence that pointed to Chapman’s innocence.

A forensic pathologist’s report strongly suggested one of the
victims might have been a victim of a drug overdose instead of homicide.”

Chapman is the seventh innocent death row prisoner in North Carolina to be released, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington. In almost every case, prosecutors made key mistakes or omissions – or overlooked conflicting evidence that later proved significant. Those who oppose the death penalty say that’s evidence of its fatal flaws. Proponents say the death penalty works, but the mistakes are the result of an overworked system.

What do you think? Is the death penalty jinxed in North Carolina? Or is the system that administers it simply making too many mistakes? Do we need to halt executions and study reforms? What would those reforms be?

What do you think ought to be done to stop a run of potentially deadly errors?