That's the title of an OpEd in today's Los Angeles Times written by Columbia Law prof James Liebman. It's subtitled, "Carlos DeLuna's execution shows that a faster, cheaper death penalty is a dangerous idea."
Californians will vote this fall on an initiative to abolish the death penalty. Proponents of the measure say it is necessary because capital punishment is too costly. Opponents argue that costs can be cut by streamlining the system.
But whether one is for or against capital punishment, trying to make the process cheaper and quicker is a terrible — and dangerous — idea.
Recently, my coauthors and I published the results of an extensive four-year investigation into the Texas execution of Carlos DeLuna, a young Latino man with a childlike intellect who was convicted of murder. His case flew through the courts. The entire process, from arrest to lethal injection, took only six years, or half the national average for capital cases.
It now seems virtually certain, however, that DeLuna was innocent. Only a more careful — and consequently longer and more expensive — prosecution and appeals process might have prevented the tragedy.
The flaws in the system that condemned DeLuna — faulty eyewitness testimony, poor legal representation and evidence withheld from the defense — continue to put innocent people at risk of execution. Cameron Willingham, David Spence, Ruben Cantu, Larry Griffin, Gary Graham and Troy Davis are among those executed despite evidence that they were not guilty. What we don't know is how many more, like Carlos DeLuna, have fallen through the cracks without ever being noticed.
DeLuna's case disproves the myth that we can save the death penalty by generating more "quick and dirty" executions. The death penalty is broken. At great effort and expense, states such as California have tried every measure to fix it, but they have failed. The only solution is to end it.
You can read the complete Columbia Human Rights Law Review article at The Wrong Carlos.
Earlier coverage of Carlos DeLuna and the Columbia HRLR article begins at the link. Earlier coverage of the SAFE California ballot initiative is also available