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Wrongful Death Sentences: Rethinking Justice in Capital Cases

NCJ Number
Cathleen Burnett
Date Published
200 pages
This book explores the juxtaposition of three aspects of innocence.
This book highlights problems such as the elicitation of false confessions, prosecutors who choose to ignore mitigating factors, and Supreme Court decisions that limit appeals to show why those accused of capital crimes frequently fail to receive a fair hearing. Chapter 1 introduces the proposed innocence framework. Chapter 2 explores the most familiar situation of actual innocence in which the condemned prisoner was not at the scene of the crime nor had anything to do with the crime; it discusses the systematic barriers to recognizing those who are actually innocent and offers suggestions for restoring balance in the administration of justice. Chapter 3 discusses innocence by investigating the special problems of false confessions and of plea bargaining, procedures that obstruct the recognition of an actually innocent person and contribute to the development of increasing risks for miscarriages of justice. Chapter 4 explores the circumstances of factual innocence in which the prisoner was in some way involved with the actual killer and is considered an accomplice, although not the actual killer. Chapters 5 and 6 present material that deals explicitly with the intentionality element of capital murder and explains that legal innocence applies to persons who have killed but as a matter of social policy do not deserve the ultimate penalty. Chapter 7 concludes by exploring the consequences of adopting this broader understanding of the spectrum of innocence for the administration of justice. Tables, references, and index