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Amnesty International on state executions

DA Joshua Marquis campaigns on his annecdotes

March 3, 2000

"It flat out isn't true that the justice system frequently hands death sentences to the innocent." So begins the latest no-holds-barred defense of law'n order and Measure 11 by Clatsop DA, Josh Marquis, Get the facts right on the death penalty (The Oregonian, 2/27/00). For the record, Marquis cites few facts beyond his several purely personal annecdotes, which are more suited to a memoir or a political campaign brochure than an oped commentary.

As to Marquis'claim that few innocent people are charged or convicted of capital murder, between 1973 and January, 2000, 85 innocent people waiting execution on death rows around the US had had their convictions reversed and were released. For the details of these cases, names, dates, court records, etc., go on the internet to the Death Penalty Information Center. During the same period, 616 people were executed, representing a ratio of one in eight being wrongfully sentenced to death. Among those are the 13 released from the Illinois State Death Row -- whose innocence was established and led Governor Ryan to declare a moritorium on further executions in his state.

Mr. Marquis would like us to trust his word for his numerous generalizations based on his personal experience. On the other hand, he charges the opponents of the death penalty with using "misinformation and outright phoney claims." It is no phoney claim that the US currently imprisons two million, a higher percentage of its citizens than any other industrialized country; it is a fact that in the US there are over 3000 people on death row; in 1999, only China, with 5 times our population, executed more people than the US. According to Amnesty International, over half the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty - either by law or by practice. For more FACTS about the death penalty in Oregon, in the US, and around the world, visit Amnesty International:
the Hartford Advocate series:
and the Oregon Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty: