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November 22, 2005

NOW HE TELLS US:

A decade after Ruben Cantu was executed for capital murder, the only witness to the crime is recanting and his co-defendant says Cantu, then 17, was not even with him that night. . . .

Sam D. Millsap Jr., the district attorney who handled the case, said he never should have sought the death penalty in a case based on testimony from a witness who identified a suspect only after police showed him a photo three times.

I think he's right, but I wish this had occurred to him a bit sooner. I don't think the death penalty is inherently immoral, but I think that Charles Black's argument about the inevitability of caprice and mistake is awfully powerful.

UPDATE: GWU Law Professor Bob Cottrol emails: "Remember our op-ed piece in the Washington Times 'Greasing the Skids at the Start of Death Row' a few years back? We were more correct than we knew. . . . Basically the system is broken. Instead of insisting on the highest possible standards in capital cases we treat them as all too routine. The post conviction review process is more concerned with trivial technicalities than determining whether all doubt has been extinquished in capital cases."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Clayton Cramer notes the absence of an undo option.

MORE: Here's more at PrawfsBlawg.