Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Scott Peterson and the Death penalty

From the American Heritage Dictionary;
Circumstantial evidence: Evidence not bearing directly on the fact in dispute but on various attendant circumstances from which the judge or jury might infer the occurrence of the fact in dispute.
Today the crowd outside of Scott Peterson’s courtroom cheered the death sentence imposed upon Scott Peterson. Shame on them. They are cheering for the execution of someone who is certainly guilty of adultery but only may be guilty of murder.

No one saw him do it. No one saw him dump the bodies in the water (if, in fact, that was what had happened). No one has provided any direct, physical link between Scott Peterson and the murders. The evidence is circumstantial only. And they’re going to kill him anyway? There's not even any proof that there was one or two murders. The bodies were found, but there's no indication that they were deliberately murdered.

I have just two words for these Death Penalty fans; “Rolando Cruz”. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he was sentenced to death because he was convicted of raping and murdering a little girl. The Prosecutors were “sure” they had their man. The public was “sure” he did it. He was convicted at two separate trials, by two different juries. But he was innocent. The case against him eventually fell apart. And this was not an isolated incident. Many people on death row (in Illinois and elsewhere) have been freed as new evidence, especially DNA evidence, has been presented. And the odds are very high that the state has executed more than one innocent person.

Maybe Scott found out that his wife discovered the affair he was having, panicked, and killed her. Maybe Scott had built up a hatred of his wife and the married life and finally decided to do something (the wrong thing) about it. Or maybe Laci ran into some madman. Maybe she committed suicide. The point is that I don’t KNOW and you don’t either. There is no PROOF.

Do I think he did it? The evidence I’ve seen certainly points that way. But how hard did the police look for someone else? The record of police and prosecution failures and misconduct, especially in capital cases, is long and disheartening. I fear it may be happening again in the Riley Fox case. The California Attorney General said when Scott Peterson was arrested "...I would call the odds slam-dunk that he is going to be convicted." The last time I heard "slam-dunk" relating to something other than a basketball game was regarding Iraq and WMD. And this was the CIA saying it.

Should they let Scott Peterson go free? Of course not. The known evidence certainly points to his guilt. The jury said that he's guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt". I'm comfortable with him going to jail. But if you're going to impose a death sentence, there should be a higher standard, a standard approaching certainty. Until something solid comes along that PROVES his guilt, he should be locked up, not executed. If someone else makes a deathbed confession 15-20 years from now and Scott has already been executed, the state will only be able to say “sorry about that”. And then there will have been 3 crimes committed, not 2.

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