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OPINION

Clearance rate priority

By Dana D. Kelley

This article was published April 21, 2017 at 2:23 a.m.

The emotional melee here in the middle of Execution Month has been a sight to behold. Passions will probably continue to prevail over facts, law, reason, justice and perspective.

The flurry of specious legal arguments to spare the lives of long-ago-condemned criminals has invoked incredulity on a magnitude previously unimaginable.

Obesity as an obstacle to execution?

You can never think you've heard it all once a concentration of agenda-driven lawyers reaches critical mass on an issue. The situation has clearly escalated to "say anything" status, and so far, the anti-death penalty crowd that singled out a handful of Arkansas' worst killers as poster boys has been successful in delaying and denying justice, again.

Arkansas hasn't executed a single murderer since 2005, despite losing a couple thousand innocent victims to murder during that time. No objective observer would say the state is killing too many killers.

The Innocence Project isn't called the Truth Project, for good reason. Its cause isn't truth. It champions DNA exonerations with the loudest shouts from the highest rooftops as reasons to end capital punishment. But when DNA confirms a conviction, and a criminal is rightfully executed, it's quiet as a church mouse. Even a just execution is still wrong in its eyes.

Propagandists prop up their arguments using volume, not validity. So the Innocence Project downplays DNA confirmations, which occur more often than exonerations. Convicted criminals typically contact Innocence Project chapters to request help, and whenever DNA proves the petitioning criminal guilty of his crime, it also proves him to be a liar.

Why it ever surprises anyone that a man judged guilty of murdering someone in cold blood could also be guilty of lying about it is bewildering. But the Innocence Project files are full of indubitably duped lawyers, clerks, advocates and celebrities.

For years following his execution in 1992 in Virginia, murderer and rapist Roger Coleman was a cause célèbre contender in the search for a wrongly executed criminal.

"An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight," Coleman boldly claimed moments before dying in Virginia's electric chair. "When my innocence is proven," he added, "I hope America will realize the injustice of the death penalty as all other civilized countries have."

It can be hard for law-abiding Americans to fathom anyone being so blatantly dishonest on death's doorstep. But when Gov. Mark Warner ordered a new DNA test 14 years after Coleman's execution, it proved neither innocence nor injustice.

The man who had been on the cover of Time magazine, and who had inspired pleas for clemency reaching all the way to the pope, had hoodwinked them all. Coleman was guilty as sin, and wouldn't even come to terms with the truth with his last breath.

All the time, money and resources spent on re-proving what prosecutors had already proved beyond a reasonable doubt 25 years earlier was wasted.

If the government had unlimited resources, sure, it could re-test every criminal who claimed innocence. But criminal justice resources are beyond maxed out, to the point that police can barely investigate, much less solve, the crimes we have now.

The national clearance rate for murders is only about 64 percent. Police consider a case "cleared" when it ends in an arrest. Nationwide, one-third of murders result in no arrest.

In other violent crimes, clearance rates are abysmal. For robberies, the national clearance rate is less than 30 percent. And in six out of 10 forcible rapes, no suspect is ever apprehended.

National averages belie local clearance rates, which vary widely by municipality and by year. In Little Rock, for example, the clearance rate for murder in 2013 was only 24 percent. Across the river and three years later, North Little Rock's homicide clearance rate was 100 percent.

In some places, like Wilmington Del., more than 90 percent of murders can go unsolved.

Because more law enforcement resources are put into clearing crimes like murder and aggravated assault, the clearance rate for property crimes plummets. Nationally, only about 12 percent of burglaries and motor vehicle thefts are cleared. The Little Rock figures were even lower: 8 percent for burglaries in 2013 and only 4 percent for auto thefts.

Down in Pine Bluff in 2013, there were 189 vehicles stolen, but a mere three arrests in all those thefts.

In overtaxed police jurisdictions, victims whose home is burglarized or car stolen can pretty much expect their cases to go unsolved. Victims of even the worst violent crimes have a one-in-three chance or less of seeing the perpetrator caught.

Guilty murderers are more than happy to abuse resources. They have nothing to lose, and they might gain an unjust outcome.

A misguided focus on executions masks the astonishing deterioration in the more important measure of police effectiveness at clearing crimes. Fifty years ago, the murder clearance rate was more than 90 percent. The goal should be to return to that level of crime-solving, but it will take more criminal justice resources in our higher-crime society.

Blindly diverting resources in attempts to DNA test every convicted murderer who says he didn't do it will only help make bad clearance rates even worse.

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Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro.

Editorial on 04/21/2017

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Displaying 1 - 2 of 2 total comments

RBear says... April 21, 2017 at 6:29 a.m.

Kelley, you simpleton. The reason the Innocence Project doesn't shout and scream like you conservatives do when a DNA test validates a conviction is because there is no reason to. The system worked. But the system doesn't work all the time and there are wrongful convictions which are much harder to champion than anything in our justice system today.
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The Innocence Project plays a role in standing up to follow through when sloppy prosecutors and investigators don't. I've seen several cases where a bad prosecutor, investigator, and sometimes defense attorney condemned a person to death, only to find out later they screwed up evidence or investigating the case. The Innocence Project stands in the gap for those wrongfully convicted and I'm glad they are there.
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But when the evidence backs the conviction, they stand down quietly as they should. But you seem to miss that point and choose to attack them for standing in the gap when others won't. Let me make a suggestion to you. Read "Innocent: Inside Wrongful Conviction Cases." It might give you a better perspective on what the Innocence Project does.

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mrcharles says... April 21, 2017 at 9:06 a.m.

So the Innocence Project downplays DNA confirmations, which occur more often than exoneration. EXONERATION'S, OMG, was there ever one? Why what good reason is this to give us pause in DAK's agenda to join in an orgy of death , as the ADG stated in the first line of one of its post, The State Killed an inmate.

This is perhaps summing up the thoughtlessness of the cons. Lets complain about the government cannot do anything right, and of course when they get involved it is a self fulfilling prophesy. They admit here that those on death row may not always be guilty to be Killed by the State, but in the matter of expediency lets kill all them and let the deity [ would it be rude that we mere mammals who cant agree all the aspects of the deity systems have the audacity that we can figure out to be like G-ds and kill its creations] .

All the rest of DAK's spouting is mere word salad. He gave us his agenda in a subtle but effective way of explaining that the honor of a society in exonerating one innocent being is just not worth it if we can kill, kill, kill.

Perhaps this is why cons so upset me. Convenience and being able to say whoops when they are wrong makes it ok is what counts to them. In their defense they have always been these misguided animals, but as time goes along their delusions get proven as pure BS... so we will just have to wait till that day like the Jews say when all believe in the deity [ if they dont kill each other first over who is correct on how tall he is] .

i am just upset as the killing was to have been done at 7 p.m., which means when done later this moment is a shorter time frame that it would be if 7 and I want to get this out of mind as quickly as possible.

Evolution made me think that I am not as they say, per se, against capital punishment.

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