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NYT on the Hennis Case

John Schwartz has this story on the Hennis case in the NYT.

In an interview, Mr. Scheidegger said that the Hennis case showed the stark difference between a jury's not finding guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and actual proof of innocence. In the Hennis case, he said, "we have proof that he was a guilty murderer who got away with it, and yet he was on the innocence list."

Richard C. Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said in an interview that Mr. Hennis's name would be removed from the innocence list. But Mr. Dieter defended the list and its name.

Being found "not guilty" is not innocence in the sense of "innocent as a newborn babe," he said, and "we've never said that's what the innocence list is about."

But Dieter knows very well that simply by calling it the "innocence list" he leads people to believe it is a list of people who actually did not commit the crime and that it is cited for that proposition by the anti side in nearly every debate on the death penalty. Even though DPIC itself hedges on what it means by "innocence," the list is used to mislead people and distort the debate, and that is its very purpose.


Here's a quote from Dieter's website:

"Since 1973, 139 people from 26 states have been released with evidence of innocence."


In that quote, Dieter is certainly referring to the "didn't do it" innocence, not the could have done it, but not enough admissible evidence/proof innocence. So, on top of being an unctious sophist, Dieter is a liar.

Let us hope that with his admission, journalists will add the caveat when they discuss this statistic. I won't hold my breath.

By the way, the DNA evidence has been around for a while, and Dieter knew it. Yet he continued the charade about evidence that someone else did these horrible crimes on his website. In so doing, he abused the memory of the victims. The survivors of this gruesome crime deserved better than to have a slick anti-death penalty advocate hold up Hennis as an example of what's wrong with the death penalty after DNA evidence tied him to the crime. Dieter felt that propaganda was more important than decency. Contemptible.

Those of you who toil for truth and justice (you know who you are) should be buoyed by the NYT article. Both the reporter of the story, and the editor who approved the content of the story, drew a link between the Hennis conviction and the DPIC "innocence" list. Why? Possibly because one or both, purely for amusement purposes, read this blog.

It is telling that the only news outlet to deal with this is the NYTimes. No other news organization, despite the fact that Dieter's so-called innocence list is cited all the time, saw fit to mention this issue. Kudos to the reporter here.

"Possibly because one or both, purely for amusement purposes, read this blog."

Or possibly read our press releases.

The press release is essentially the same as the 4/8 11:59 post.

No matter how the DPIC defines its criteria, its List and similar analyses are continually misinterpreted as meaning that the “wrong person” was convicted in every case. For instance, Senator Leahy has used the DPIC List to assert the following: “When dozens of innocent people are being sentenced to death, and dozens of guilty people are working [walking] free because the State has convicted the wrong person, we must ask ourselves what went wrong in that trial process....” 146 Cong. Rec. S4669-03, S4675 (6/7/00). Similarly, “[t]here is one other thing we should keep in mind. If the wrong person is on death row for a murder, if somebody is convicted of a murder they did not commit, that means that the real murderer is still running loose. Maybe everybody can feel comfortable that we have locked up somebody for the murder, but if there is still a killer on the loose, everything has broken down. Not only
is an innocent man on death row, but a guilt man is running free.” 148 Cong. Rec. S889-02, S891 (2/15/02). As explained in the text, the fact that a defendant is acquitted or a case is dismissed does not necessarily mean that a “guilty person” is still “walking free” or “running loose”. As recently as 2004, information from the DPIC List and similar studies was still relied upon fallaciously to assert: “What’s more, the conviction of these innocent people inflicted needless harm on the criminal justice system because every time an innocent person is convicted, that means the guilty person who committed the rape or the murder or the robbery has not been caught and is out committing other crimes.” (Prof. Samuel Gross, Univ. of Mich. Law School, NPR, 4/20/04, 2004 WL 56756464). Even in its most recent report, the DPIC cannot resist insinuating that its list demonstrates that the wrong person was convicted of the crime: “Besides the danger of establishing a class of individuals who are placed under permanent suspicion, the failure to acknowledge the innocence of those who have been exonerated retards the search for the real perpetrator.” Innocence & the Crisis in the American Death Penalty, Pt. IV. Most recently, at the hearings on the confirmation of Judge John G. Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States, Senator Feingold again misleadingly represented the status of the 121 inmates then mentioned on the DPIC List as “121 people who we know were sentenced to die for crimes they did not commit.” Transcript, Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on the President’s Nomination of Judge John G. Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States, September 14, 2005.

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