From the “It’s not breaking news per se, but good old-fashioned press-release analysis” department at the New York Times, we’ve got Adam Liptak’s “Fewer Death Sentences Being Imposed in U.S.” in the September 15, 2004 edition of the paper. The article is largely culled from data gleaned from a report put out by the Death Penalty Information Center, a research group that “says it takes no position on capital punishment, though it has been critical of the way the death penalty is applied.”
But the report’s thesis – that exonerations play a major role – as well as its data on the number of people exonerated are the subject of debate. The report says that 116 innocent people have been released from death row since 1973, after serving an average of nine years each.
Prosecutors said the report overstates the number of innocent people who have been released from death row. They said 20 to 30 is more accurate. “You’re talking about an extremely small, microscopic number,” said Ward A. Campbell, a supervising deputy state attorney general in Sacramento.
Fair enough. No word, however, on an as-yet-unannounced bill going through the California state legislature right now calling for the indiscriminate and unjust execution of 20-30 members of this Ward Campbell fellow’s extended family. Seriously, it’s an extremely small, microscopic number, and he probably won’t notice.