May 25, 2012
By Leslie Minora
Rick Halperin, head of SMU's human rights program, has been saying for years what became nationally recognized this week: "Yes, America, We Have Executed an Innocent Man," to borrow a headline from the Atlantic. Halperin has spent his career doing the academic equivalent of banging his head against the wall trying to get people to recognize that it is possible to kill innocent prisoners and hosting event after event with death penalty exonerees sharing their stories.
Finally, a lengthy report released this week by Columbia University's law school concludes what Halperin's been saying all along: America killed an innocent prisoner in 1989. Or, more specifically, Texas killed an innocent prisoner in 1989.
That man's name is Carlos DeLuna, as the signs of anti-death penalty demonstrators outside the Dallas County Courthouse read this morning. Flaws in his case lead to his wrongful conviction and eventual death at the hands of the state. Halperin gathered a small crowd, in the face of this revelation, to plea that District Attorney Craig Watkins stop seeking death sentences for people charged with capital crimes.
Halperin made it clear that life without parole is often an appropriate punishment -- just not death. "A death sentence is many things, but it can never be equated to justice," Halperin said, demanding that Watkins do his job of "seeking justice."...