DNA Has Completely Changed the Death Penalty

Henry Lee McCollum, a black man age 50, had been on death row for 30 years for the 1983 rape and killing of an eleven-year-old girl. He didn’t do it. DNA evidence finally “implicated another man, a known sex offender the police had not investigated, despite the fact that he lived next to the crime scene,” according to Slate. McCollum, who was 19 at the time, confessed after police pressure along with his half-brother, Leon Brown, who was 15 then. Both recanted several times but Brown ended up serving a life sentence, McCollum went on death row. They were both freed from prison back in 2014.

Conservative Supreme court Judge Antonin Scalia used this very case to dismiss Justice Harry Blackmun’s concerns about the death penalty some 20 years ago. He pointed to convicted killer Henry Lee McCollum as an obvious example of a man who deserved to be put to death. Scalia used McCollum as the perfect illustration of a heinous crime that “stood as a testament to the merit of capital punishment itself.” Well, on June 4, 2015, the two men were pardoned by No. Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory.

Each man now qualifies for $50,000 for each year they were imprisoned, up to a maximum of $750,000. They needed a gubernatorial pardon in order to collect the compensation.

Steve Benen, who wrote the MSNBC article commented, “As best as I can tell, Scalia has not yet commented.”

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