Rushing To Judgment

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Kharey Wise was wrongfully convicted of beating and raping a female jogger in Central Park in 1989 and spent 15 years in prison. He was released when the real assailant confessed to the crime (Photo Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images).

Kharey Wise was wrongfully convicted of beating and raping a female jogger in Central Park in 1989 and spent 15 years in prison. He was released when the real assailant confessed to the crime (Photo Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images).

For many who remember the terrible crime, the huge outcry and the media circus around the 1989 “Central Park Jogger” case, which was BIG national news, it may have come as a surprise to learn that all 5 of the teenagers convicted were in fact innocent.

But it probably shouldn’t have.

The film The Central Park Five, recently premiered on PBS, offers an important cautionary tale about how a rush to judgment, fueled by all-in media coverage of a particularly heinous crime, increases the chances that criminal justice officials will make critical mistakes, or engage in deliberate misconduct. The Reggie Clemons case, tainted by allegations of police abuse during the investigation and prosecutorial misconduct during the trial, is a reminder that a process compromised in this way can result in a death sentence.

At the other end of the spectrum, a rush to judgment can occur when there is a callous indifference on the part of authorities toward a crime they may perceive as less important because it was committed in a marginalized community. That’s what seems to have happened in the Carlos De Luna case, where an almost certainly innocent man was put to death for a crime another man named Carlos probably committed.

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Killing The Innocent With Indifference

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Carlos-De-Luna

Carlos DeLuna was executed by the state of Texas in 1989. A new study by Columbia University could prove his innocence.

The USA has almost certainly executed innocent men in the so called “modern” era of capital punishment, since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. One of them may have been Carlos DeLuna, who was put to death in Texas in 1989 for the killing of gas station attendant Wanda Lopez in Corpus Christi.

Today, a comprehensive report and website by James Liebman and a team of students in the Columbia University Human Rights Law Review makes a compelling case for DeLuna’s innocence.

To explain how this wrongful conviction and execution could have happened Liebman et al. point to the

“failure of lawyers on the defense as well as the prosecution side to have the curiosity and gumption to look just an inch or two below the surface.”

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