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Convicted, Executed, Not Guilty

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Well-known member
Feb 10, 2005
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I've always thought the death penalty was reasonable for some crimes until reading this:

Convicted, Executed, Not Guilty
If Larry Griffin were being tried today for the murder of Quintin Moss, he would almost certainly be acquitted. The evidence is overwhelming that he did not kill Mr. Moss.

But Mr. Griffin is not being tried today. He has already been executed for the murder.

While significant, this development is not that much of a surprise to those who understand that human beings are fallible and that much of the criminal justice system in the United States is a crapshoot. Whether it is this case or some other, it is inevitable that we will learn of someone who has been executed for a crime that he or she did not commit.

Judges and juries are no less prone to mistakes than politicians, reporters, doctors, engineers or center fielders. Which is why the death penalty should be abolished.

Larry Griffin's case is probably not the best one for advancing this argument, but it's the case at hand. He was not a solid citizen. While it seems clear that he did not commit the crime for which he was executed - the killing of Mr. Moss - he did plead guilty to killing someone else.

Mr. Griffin's character, or lack of same, does not make the principle at stake any less valid. This was recognized by Jennifer Joyce, the circuit attorney in St. Louis, where Mr. Moss was murdered way back in 1980. Ms. Joyce has taken the extraordinary step of officially reopening a murder investigation after the defendant was executed.

Quintin Moss was 19 years old and a locally well-known drug dealer when he was shot 13 times in a drive-by attack on a notorious block in St. Louis known as "The Stroll." A bystander, Wallace Conners, was also shot but not seriously wounded.

Mr. Conners, who knew Larry Griffin, saw the men who drove up and opened fire. He said Mr. Griffin was not one of the men. But he was never called, either by the prosecution or the defense, to testify at Mr. Griffin's trial.

The key testimony was given by Robert Fitzgerald, a professional criminal who said he had witnessed the murder and identified Mr. Griffin as one of the shooters. Mr. Fitzgerald was in the federal witness protection program at the time. He had a number of felony charges pending and was an admitted user of heroin and speed.

A Missouri Supreme Court justice said of Mr. Fitzgerald: "The only eyewitness to the murder had a seriously flawed background, and his ability to observe and identify the gunman was also subject to question."

There was no physical evidence against Mr. Griffin, and no one else at the trial placed him at the scene of the attack. But he was convicted nevertheless, and executed by lethal injection on June 21, 1995.

Mr. Fitzgerald was formally released from custody on the day Mr. Griffin was convicted.

One of the reasons we have not had a definitive example of the execution of an innocent person is that official investigations cease once the death penalty has been carried out.

In this case, an extremely unusual private investigation was conducted after Mr. Griffin's death. It was sponsored by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and led by Samuel Gross, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. That investigation has pretty much demolished Mr. Fitzgerald's account of what occurred and prompted Ms. Joyce to reopen the case.

Mr. Conners, the wounded bystander, says flatly that Mr. Fitzgerald, who died last year, was not at the scene when the attack took place. And a St. Louis police officer who supported Mr. Fitzgerald's account at the trial now says that Mr. Fitzgerald told him, "I didn't see nothing."

The officer says he can't explain why he supported Mr. Fitzgerald's false testimony at the trial.

Professor Gross, who has received extensive pro bono help from prominent law firms, has given prosecutors the names of three men he believes committed the murder, and the evidence that points to their guilt.

Ms. Joyce, who is reopening the case, was not in the circuit attorney's office when Mr. Griffin was prosecuted. She told me in a telephone conversation yesterday, "I just want to see the truth."

The investigation will be thorough, she said, adding, "I wanted to take an independent look at it, and if mistakes were made, do what I can to rectify them, recognizing that there may not be much I could do."

E-mail: [email protected]
Makes me think of those animals in Iraq who beheaded their hostages without the benefit of a trial.

No, we ain't perfect but look at some of the alternatives.
nr, I do hope you follow this new investigation and post the results.

I want to reserve judgement till after that is finished.

My concern is that there are so many anti-death penalty people out there who just might tilt the facts to promote their agenda for repeal.

I firmly believe there are crimes that need the death penalty, such as the most violent ones, especially those against innocent victims, especially children.

It just seems that today criminals have so many special rights that the victims, in too many cases, are treated worse than those who attacked them. What is to be done with violent criminals, especially those who have committed more such crimes after getting out of jail? How are we to protect society from such criminals? Prospects of serving life in jail doesn't seem to deter some of them, does it?


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