Another month, another man on death row, another excruciating case that illustrates just some of the ways in which America’s death penalty regime is unconstitutionally broken. This time, the venue is Alabama. This time, the murder that generated the sentence took place 30 years ago. And this time, there is an execution date of March 29, 2012, for Thomas Arthur, a man who has always maintained his innocence. He also has the unwelcome distinction of being one of the few prisoners in the DNA-testing era to be this close to capital punishment after someone else confessed under oath to the crime.
At some point, one has to imagine that all of these cases will add up and the populace will decide it has had enough. Enough bloodshed, enough vengeance, enough spending, enough plodding through this moral morass … just enough.
As Cohen rightly concludes:
One day, some enterprising journalist will try to establish how much the state of Alabama spent over the years prosecuting Arthur, imprisoning him, and then defending the conviction and death sentence in his case. The figure must be astounding — millions upon millions of dollars — a hard cost of justice. But also an amount that makes ironic, and quite infuriating, the current fight over this last DNA test for this last bit of available evidence. You would think Alabama would be willing to pay just a bit more to perform the test. The fact that Arthur’s attorneys are willing to pay for the test makes the state’s refusal to test unconscionable.
Anyhow, go read Andrew Cohen’s entire piece; it’s yet another absolutely stunning indictment of the death penalty system in the United States.