The Commonwealth of Virginia this week attempted to right a wrong, and declared Earl Washington, Jr. innocent of a rape and murder that DNA evidence determined that he didn't commit. Even though this evidence was uncovered six years ago--and another man was convicted of the crimes--a special prosecutor in the case insisted for years that Washington was still a suspect. That's right--the prosecutor, James Camblos, would rather see an innocent man convicted than admit that he had erred in the case. (This might have something to do with the fact that Camblos once acted as a defense attorney for the real killer, Kenneth Tinsley). At one point, Washington was only days away from execution for a crime he didn't commit. [NOTE--James Camblos was not the original prosecutor in this case, as is implied by my post. Instead, John Bennett was the trial prosecutor in the Washington case. My apologies. Please see the note from Factchecker in the comments section below for another view on the case, as well as my later post here.]
This guy wasn't so lucky. Cameron Todd Willingham was excecuted in Texas in 2004 for setting a fire that killed his children, when forensics techniques available at the time of his trial would have demonstrated that the fire was not an arson, had anyone paid attention to them. One of the original investigators of the fire said at the time of the execution, "At the time of the Corsicana fire, we were still testifying to things that aren't accurate today. They were true then, but they aren't now." What is true now is that Willingham is dead. Texas Governor Rick Perry was presented with the new information, but decided to go ahead and off Willingham anyway.
Since 1973, at least 120 people have been released from death row after being exonerated. Capital punishment has been demonstrated to be arbitary, racist, expensive, and ineffective as a deterrent. How many innocent persons must fall victim to overzealous prosecutors and publicity-hungry politicians before we finally condemn this barbaric practice?