Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death rows throughout the country due to evidence of their wrongful convictions. In 2003 alone, 10 wrongfully convicted defendants were released from death row.
"I cannot support a system which, in its administration, has proven so fraught with error and has come so close to the ultimate nightmare, the state's taking of innocent life... Until I can be sure that everyone sentenced to death in Illinois is truly guilty, until I can be sure with moral certainty that no innocent man or woman is facing a lethal injection, no one will meet that fate."
Examples of wrongful convictions:
Arizona: Ray Krone, released in 2002
- Spent 10 years in prison in Arizona, including time on death row, for a murder he did not commit. He was the 100th person to be released from death row since 1973. DNA testing proved his innocence.
Illinois: Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Stanley Howard and LeRoy Orange, pardoned in 2003
- Sent to death row on the basis of "confessions" extracted through the use of torture by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and other Area 2 police officers in Chicago. They were pardoned by outgoing Governor George Ryan, who also commuted the remaining 167 death sentences in Illinois to life imprisonment.
North Carolina: Jonathon Hoffman, exonerated in 2007
- Convicted and sentenced to death for the 1995 murder of a jewelry store owner. During Hoffman's first trial, the state's key witness, Johnell Porter, made undisclosed deals with the prosecutors for testifying against his cousin. Porter has since recanted his testimony, stating that he lied in order to get back at his cousin for stealing money from him.
Factors leading to wrongful convictions include:
- Inadequate legal representation
- Police and prosecutorial misconduct
- Perjured testimony and mistaken eyewitness testimony
- Racial prejudice
- Jailhouse "snitch" testimony
- Suppression and/or misinterpretation of mitigating evidence
- Community/political pressure to solve a case