I want to share a letter I received from Kurt Rosenberg, the dedicated director of Witness To Innocence. Witness to Innocence is spearheaded by former death row prisoners who have been exonerated and released from death rows across the United States and who are now actively engaged in the struggle to end the death penalty. These courageous people bring a human face to the death penalty that no one else can.
Here’s what Kurt had to say after the recent exoneration of another two men from death row:
It’s become more clear than ever that as wrongfully convicted men continue to be released from death row, the issue of innocence is alive and well in the struggle to end the death penalty. Two more death-row exonerations last week - in the states that lead the nation in having sent innocent men to death row - have brought the nationwide total to 135 since 1973. Just over halfway through the year, there have been five exonerations in 2009, the most in the United States in a single year since 2004.
On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously ordered that Herman Lindsey be set free because there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of murdering a Fort Lauderdale pawnshop worker. Lindsey’s exoneration was the 23rd in Florida since the reinstatement of the death penalty.
Three days earlier, Ronald Kitchen was exonerated in Illinois when the state’s Attorney General dropped all charges against him. Kitchen and a co-defendant had been convicted of a 1988 murder. He had confessed to the crime after being subject to interrogation by a police unit that used torturous tactics against suspects.
Kitchen’s case is yet another exoneration linked to disgraced former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. Kitchen had claimed that detectives under Burge’s command coerced him into confessing to the murders through torture, including hitting him in the head with a telephone, punching him in the face, striking him in the groin, and kicking him. Years after Kitchen’s conviction, Police Commander Burge was fired after the Police Department Review Board ruled that he had used torture. Burge currently awaits trial on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury in relation to a civil suit regarding the torture allegations against him.
Kitchen’s exoneration was Illinois’ 20th death-row exoneration. Florida and Illinois rank first and second in the United States, respectively, in death-row exonerations. Last week’s exonerations bring to four the number of death-row exonerations in the last two months. In mid-May, Paul House (Tennessee) and Daniel Wade Moore (Alabama) were also exonerated within three days of each other.
For more information on Lindsey’s exoneration, see: “Florida Supreme Court frees Death Row inmate in 1994 Broward murder” and “Death Row inmate convicted in 1994 Broward murder will be set free”. To read more about Kitchen’s exoneration, see “Burge-linked cases” and “Charges dropped in 20-year-old murder case”.