I am sick of stories of the execution of innocent people

We have yet again another depressing story of new evidence emerging that a man who was executed two years ago while strenuously pleading his innocence of the crime may have been telling the truth.

The day before Ledell Lee was executed on 20 April 2017, he talked to the BBC from death row. He said that while he could not prevent the state of Arkansas from killing him, he had a message for his executioners: “My dying words will always be, as it has been: ‘I am an innocent man’.”

Almost two years after Lee was strapped to a gurney and injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs, it looks increasingly likely he was telling the truth: he went to his death an innocent man. New evidence has emerged that suggests Lee was not guilty of the brutal murder of a woman in 1993 for which his life was taken.

An 81-page filing in the lawsuit provides damning new evidence that key aspects of the prosecution case against Lee were deeply flawed. The complaint includes expert opinion from a number of world-leading specialists who find glaring errors in the way forensic science and other evidence was interpreted.

The lawsuit also includes a bombshell affidavit from Lee’s post-conviction attorney who admits to having struggled with substance abuse and addiction throughout the years in which he represented him.

Innocence has always been the achilles heel of America’s death penalty: how to justify judicially killing prisoners who may have been wrongfully convicted. The question is far from academic: since 1973 no fewer than 167 death row inmates have been exonerated.

The most harrowing question is whether innocent prisoners have been executed before the flawed nature of their convictions emerged. In recent years, there have been several cases that, with near certainty, suggest that innocent men have been put to death.

I am just sick, sick, sick of these stories. This is so unnecessary. There is nothing to be gained by the state killing people since that is a punishment that rules out the possibility of new evidence. Taking someone’s life is something that should be viewed with horror. So why do we let the state do it on our behalf?

While it is undoubtedly true that the world would be better off without some people, there is no excuse whatsoever for the death penalty because you can be sure that there will be innocent people who will be killed. Any country that has it on the books and uses it is barbaric, plain and simple, dressing up a primitive urge to wreak a brutal act of vengeance under the guise of justice. Such a country does not belong among the civilized nations of the world.


  1. says

    Just as galling, when innocent people have been murdered by the state, the politicians, judges, prosecutors, cops and others fight tooth and nail to prevent reopening such cases (“He’s dead because he was guilty! He’s guilty because I say so!”)

    They fight to protect those before them from facing consequences so that those who come after will protect them.

  2. says

    And to make things even worse, my understanding is that it actually costs more to put a prisoner on death row than put them on a life sentence. Apparently, there are costs regarding separating prisoners, appeals, etc. that are ramped up when someone is on death row.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    “Any country that has it on the books and uses it is barbaric, plain and simple”

    This naturally leads to the question of what sort of people would choose to live in such a place.

  4. lanir says


    Someone rich enough to have a choice about which country they live in is rich enough to avoid most of the crushing penalties of the American legal system. Pretending the vast majority of any country isn’t stuck there leads to a lot of slippery slope arguments especially when you start to consider war and other acts of aggression.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    @4: well… Yes. Obviously.
    @5: Again -- yes, days rather the point. The comment very clearly and specifically judges only those who CHOOSE to tacitly support a regime that executes the innocent because they’re comfortable in the assumption it doesn’t apply to them.

    I mean, the word “choose” was right there. Did you miss it, or just not understand what it meant?

  6. file thirteen says


    Your statement was pretty extreme. Choosing to live somewhere is not much of a choice. You are logically judging every US resident that has any option of moving away, notably Mano Singham.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    “You are logically judging every US resident that has any option of moving away”


    “Choosing to live somewhere is not much of a choice.”

    Remind me: how many countries are there? How many are there that DON’T fairly regularly execute innocent people, or indeed any people at all? (clue:all of Europe for starters)

  8. file thirteen says

    Which is practically everyone there that’s not in prison. It seems to be that you’re implying that the entire population of the US is morally bankrupt, even those in states that don’t use it (because they’re part of a country that has it on their books and does). That’s a lot of people. I guess the human race is pretty much beyond help then.

  9. sonofrojblake says

    You think the entire non -- incarcerated population of the US would represent desirable immigrants? Only if their target country had a pretty low bar. Are there any civilised countries that desperate?

    Also “morally bankrupt” is a bit strong. “passively complicit” is closer. Again, only if you’re one of the minority with a choice.

  10. file thirteen says

    Still can’t get my head around “everyone who can leave should”. It’s the wrong way to look at it. The moral thing to do is to stay and oppose inhumane laws, rather than flee to somewhere you can preach to the converted about how bad they are. A resident who opposes a law is not complicit with it.

  11. sonofrojblake says

    Depends what you mean by “oppose”.

    I don’t see anything that I’d recognise as “opposition” coming from the people of the USA. For starters, the only two political parties there both support it. I see the occasional group protesting individual executions, but no movement getting anywhere even trying to argue the principle.

  12. sonofrojblake says

    Also: politics in the 2020s:

    Person on the right: if the state puts up taxes, you should leave the country.
    Commentariat of the right: Mmm, yeah, that’s seems reasonable.

    Person on the left: if the state regularly incarcerates and murders innocent citizens in cold blood, you should leave the country.
    Commentariat on the left: WHAAAAT?!?!?

  13. John Morales says

    sonofrojblake, whereas you, in your wisdom, say that if things are bad where you are, don’t bother to try to change them, just go away from there. Run, run away!

  14. file thirteen says

    I don’t see anything that I’d recognise as “opposition” coming from the people of the USA.

    Food for thought:



    Without any opposition, maybe that should be put down to good luck? Or god’s will perhaps? /s

    Try not to get sucked into nationalism. It’s not countries that matter, it’s people.

  15. file thirteen says

    And while I do understand your aversion to passive complicity, flight is only another method of avoiding issues.

    “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing run away.“ (with apologies to John Stuart Mill)

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