The release yesterday of Ray Krone, who spent over two years on Arizona’s death row for a crime he did not commit, is a wake-up call for elected officials and state leaders across this country to recognize the volume and magnitude of problems plaguing our nation’s death penalty system. Krone, the 100 th person since 1973 to have been convicted of a capital crime and then released when new evidence surfaced, could have been executed for a murder he did not commit.
Krone's situation shows how thoroughly flawed the system can be. First sentenced to death for the 1991 killing of a Phoenix waitress, he spent two years and eight months on death row before a second trial resulted in a life sentence. Only after serving approximately seven more years in prison did DNA tests clearly point to another person as the killer.
In Virginia , Earl Washington was released from death row last year after DNA analysis revealed that he did not commit the murder for which he was sentenced to death.
In addition, substantial questions remain about the innocence of at least two inmates --Roger Keith Coleman and Michael Satcher--who have already been put to death. Those questions may never be answered because the state's Attorney General fights vigorously to prevent the posthumous testing of evidence.
An ACLU study of Virginia 's death penalty, released in 2000, found significant racial disparities in the administration of capital punishment here as well as serious problems with quality of counsel and quality of judicial review. A second study, released last year by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission disagreed with the ACLU's assertion of racial discrimination but did find inconsistent application of the death penalty and insufficient review of death sentences by the courts.
This year, two moratorium bills and an abolition bill were introduced in the Virginia General Assembly. None of them survived the legislative committee to which they were originally assigned.
"Frighteningly, the release of Ray Krone offers the 100 th example of a death penalty system poised to execute innocent people," said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis.
Laura LaFay, associate director of the ACLU of Virginia and author of the organization's death penalty study, added, "No matter who studies the death penalty, whether in Virginia or in other states, they reach the conclusion that it is flawed. That should be enough to at least call a temporary halt to executions."
A statement from Diann Rust Tierney, Director of the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project in Washingon, D.C., follows.
A more complete story on Krone can be found in today's Arizona Republic, available on line at www.arizonarepublic.com
A statement on the 100th death row release can be found at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20020409-100th-Innocent-Release.pdf
Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia Laura LaFay, Associate Director, ACLU of Virginia 804-644-8022