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More Capital Blunders

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To the editors:

Thanks for your article on John Healey, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA [Our Town, August 11]. We would like to acknowledge Joel Lederer, the young photographer responsible for the photos accompanying Dan Liberty's article.

Thanks also to everyone who called or wrote to the governor of Louisiana on behalf of Ronald Monroe, who was scheduled to be executed at the end of this month. Gov. Charles "Buddy" Roemer has since commuted Monroe's death sentence to life imprisonment, with no chance for parole.

There is compelling evidence suggesting that Monroe, who has a fullscale IQ of 77, was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted, yet he came very close to dying for it anyway. Despite this country's complex system of appeals, many innocent people have been convicted of capital crimes. A 1987 research study by Hugo Adam Bedau and Michael Radelet found 350 cases, between 1900 and 1985, of defendants wrongly convicted of capital crimes. They found 23 wrongful executions. Many other cases were considered but omitted from the final statistics, owing to insufficient data.

At least nine other cases have come to light since 1985, in which prisoners who had been sentenced to death were released from prison after their guilt was brought into question. If mistakes of this magnitude can happen here, despite all the legal safeguards designed to prevent these irrevocable errors, imagine how many innocent people have been put to death in countries where there are no appeals and "justice" is carried out more swiftly!

Judy Hatcher

Amnesty International USA

Chicago

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