I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised on the island of Puerto Rico. I came to the United States as a young man to try to make a better life for myself, in search of American dream. Instead, I lived the American nightmare.
In 1984, I was convicted and sentenced to death in Florida for a crime I did not commit. It was a brutal crime, a robbery and murder of a white man — Delbert Baker. He was known as “Mr. Del.” He was shot three times and his throat was slashed. The crime scene was drenched in blood. There was a rush to find someone accountable for this horrendous crime and in that rush, the rules were broken.
Seventeen years, eight months and one day later, on January 3, 2002, I was exonerated and released from death row.
At that time, I became the 99th person in the United States to be released from death row with evidence of innocence since 1973. Today, there are 139 of us. I suppose you could call us “the lucky” ones.” I wonder how many of the 1,193 who have already been executed, were not so lucky and were executed in spite of their innocence?
My case did not involve DNA. In fact, of the 139 death row exonerations, only 17 of them involved DNA. DNA will not solve the problem of wrongful death penalty convictions. It is quite limited because it is not present in the great majority of murder cases.
I was convicted and sentenced to death based on the testimony of two questionable witnesses. There was no physical evidence against me. Had it not been for the fortunate discovery of the taped confession of the real killer — 16 years after I had been sentenced to death — I would not be sharing my story with you today. When all was said and done, it was discovered that the real killer confessed to about 20 people. I was not saved by the system. I was saved in spite of the system.
Foster's Daily Democrat carried the editorial, "Death penalty is the right penalty," in the Saturday edition.
New Hampshire has a death penalty. In maintaining it the Granite State recognizes there are times when a crime is so heinous it demands the ultimate response society has to offer.
Currently being debate by the New Hampshire Legislature is an addition to the list of crimes that can demand the death penalty.
There is no moral high ground on which to stand in this case. The home invaders are not subject to the death penalty as currently written — something very unfortunate. But moving ahead, such heinous acts should invoke the death chamber.
Those who think the Legislature is acting in haste are wrong. This vicious act leaves no room for debate.
New Hampshire Public Radio covered testimony before the state's Death Penalty Commission with two reports; first, "Corrections Officer Calls for Death Penalty Repeal," by Elaine Grant.
One by one, activists who want lawmakers to abolish the death penalty paraded in front of a commission studying the issue.
They included an innocent man who spent 19 years on death row, several members of the clergy and some people whose relatives had been murdered.
And they included Richard Van Wickler, superintendent of the Cheshire County Department of Corrections, who fiercely opposes capital punishment.
Supt. Richard Van Wickler: “I believe the penalty of death sets the offender free. They escape the misery of who they are. I want dangerous offenders to be incapacitated and I want them to live in an uncomfortable existence.”
Grant also reported, "Manchester Officer Calls for Death Penalty Support," for NHPR.
After legislation to repeal the state’s death penalty passed the House but looked like it would fail in the Senate last year, lawmakers created a commission to study the issue.
That commission, made up of judges, attorneys, and others invested in the capital punishment dilemma, met for the second time in Concord.
In emotional testimony, Captain Gerald Lessard reminded members about the murder of his colleague, Officer Michael Briggs, in 2006.
Captain Gerald Lessard: "How do we as police officers reconcile the fact that fewer than four years after a brother officer was murdered and the defendant was sentenced to death, that the state of New Hampshire may decide to repeal the death penalty?”
Earlier coverage from New Hampshire begins with this post.