Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Regardless of one’s views toward the criminal justice system and the death penalty, nobody wants to see an innocent person incarcerated or executed. Yet, in his Aug. 8 letter, “We need to keep the death penalty,” reader Tim Hicks bemoans the fact that executions are often postponed for many years during what he describes as “appeal after senseless appeal.”
Mr. Hicks disregards the fact that a significant number of such appeals are ultimately granted and the underlying conviction overturned. Mr. Hicks also disregards the fact that, since 1989, more than 300 individuals convicted by evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” and sentenced to lengthy prison terms or death have been determined to be innocent years later. It is bad enough that some of those individuals served years in prison or on death row before their innocence was later established and they were released. It would have been far worse if executions had taken place as quickly as Mr. Hicks and some other commentators want.
While delays are undeniably frustrating for the victims’ families, no legitimate sense of justice nor finality can be derived from convicting, imprisoning or executing the wrong person. That is why the Fifth and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution require “due process” before a person can be deprived of “life, liberty or property.” That slow and methodical process, including any number of appeals, is the price we all pay to live in a society that seeks to be just and fair.