Salisbury Post: Trust factor broken on death penalty

“Is the death penalty “obsolete in North Carolina”? It might be, says Jim Woodall, district attorney for Orange and Chatham Counties, reacting to the news that inaccurate reports from the State Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab may have been used by prosecutors to obtain guilty verdicts in capital cases.

According to news reports, Woodall believes “the state should place a moratorium on executions.”

***Coincidentally, this week new UNC-Chapel Hill students discussed a book that showed how eyewitness testimony delivered with confidence and certainty led to the conviction and imprisonment of an innocent accused.

The book is “Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption” by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ron-ald Cotton (with Erin Torneo). Thompson-Cannino was the victim of a brutal rape. In a lineup she identified Cotton as the rapist. When she testified in court, she had no doubt and her confident testimony led to Cotton’s conviction in 1985.  Cotton remained in prison for more than 10 years. In 1995, DNA evidence proved that another man, not Cotton, had raped Thompson-Cannino.

In “Picking Cotton,” Thompson-Cannino tells how she came to her certainty about Cotton’s guilt — and stuck to it until the DNA evidence forced her to admit she might have been wrong.  “Picking Cotton” should remind us (if the SBI mess had not) that our justice system is not perfect, and that all of us must take responsibility for its failings.

«Trust factor broken on death penalty

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