Innocent Until Executed .. We have no right to exoneration.
For years, death-penalty opponents and supporters have been working
their way toward a moment in which each side would rethink things. They
were seeking a case in which a clearly innocent defendant was wrongly
put to death. In a 2005 Supreme Court case that actually had nothing to
do with the execution of innocents, Justices David Souter and Antonin
Scalia tangled over the possibility that such a creature even existed.
Souter fretted that "the period starting in 1989 has seen repeated
exonerations of convicts under death sentences, in numbers never
imagined before the development of DNA tests." To which Scalia retorted:
"The dissent makes much of the newfound capacity of DNA testing to
establish innocence. But in every case of an executed defendant of which
I am aware, that technology has confirmed guilt." Scalia went on to
blast "sanctimonious" death-penalty opponents and a 1987 study on
innocent exonerations whose "obsolescence began at the moment of
publication," then concluded that there was not "a single case—not
one—in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did
not commit."