Innocence Project

Innocence Project

by digby

Illinois just outlawed the death penalty. And well they should, since they found out that their legal system was a corrupt failure and innocent people were being convicted left and right. But I want to highlight this other uplifting story because it's just so great --- and so tragic --- that it's worth putting in the same context.

It's the story of a man who was wrongfully convicted, became a jailhouse lawyer and got himself freed. I doubt that most innocent people have the patience or the drive to fight the system this way, but it's a beautiful thing to see when someone does it and prevails.

The federal hearing was due to resume a week later with testimony from Mr. Vecchione and other prosecutors. Instead, the D.A.'s office gave up. It said its decision was "based upon the weaknesses that now exist with the witnesses," but added that its "position, then and now, was that we believe in this defendant's guilt."

Judge Irizarry was not pleased. "It's really sad that the D.A.'s office persists in standing firm and saying they did nothing wrong here," she said. "It is, indeed, sad." Judge Irizarry declined to be interviewed; the judge who turned down Mr. Collins's state appeal didn't return a call seeking comment,

Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes stood firm. "Michael Vecchione is not guilty of any misconduct," Mr. Hynes said at the time. He, Mr. Vecchione—who is now chief of the rackets division—and a spokesman for the D.A.'s office all declined to comment, citing likely litigation by Mr. Collins.

Mr. Collins walked out of prison on June 9, to an emotional welcome from his family. He has had many Rip Van Winkle moments. Swipe cards have replaced tokens on the subway; coffee shops called Starbucks are everywhere; there are these devices called iPhones.

Read the whole thing. These stories of people being railroaded or wrongly identified always send home to me the basic problem with the death penalty. There's just no doubt in my mind that innocent people have been executed, and even beyond what I consider to be the immorality of the state taking life in anything but self defense, this is the thing that keeps me up at night. I just can't understand why we feel it's ok to take that chance.