WTI joins Arizona Justice Project in opposing expedited appeal process for capital cases
WTI joined the Arizona Justice Project in a formal comment opposing the State of Arizona’s request to opt-in to an expedited appeal process for capital cases.
"The Arizona Justice Project and Witness to Innocence submit this comment in opposition to the State of Arizona’s request for “opt in” certification under Chapter 154 of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. See 28 U.S.C. § 2265. The Department of Justice should deny Arizona’s request for certification because Arizona’s availability of competent post-conviction counsel is not adequate to ensure that constitutional claims implicating innocence are properly presented to the Arizona courts. Further, thousands of exonerations that have occurred in Arizona and across the nation demonstrate that it takes time, often decades, to uncover evidence of innocence – through advancements in technology, proper investigation, and other means. If Chapter 154 is applied to Arizona capital cases, we run the grave risk of expediting the execution of an innocent person...
"Police and prosecutorial misconduct and knowingly false testimony are the leading causes of wrongful capital convictions. According to research published in February 2021 by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 69.2 percent of exonerations from capital convictions since 1973 included official misconduct by police, prosecutors, or other government officials, and 67.6% included perjury or false accusation. False or misleading forensic evidence was present in 31.9% of cases. Other causes of wrongful capital convictions include inadequate legal defense, mistaken witness identification, and false confession. 91.2% of cases of those exonerated from death row had multiple contributing factors that lead to the wrongful conviction. A cross-referenced report by DPIC & the National Registry of Exonerations revealed that for death row exonerations between April 2007 and 2017, every case involved some combination of official misconduct, perjury or false accusation, or false forensic evidence."
Read the full letter: