JIM ‘PAPPY’ MOORE: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
By Jim “Pappy” Moore
I am a person who has been hard on heinous crime my entire life. Some crimes call out for serious punishments. For decades I favored the death penalty. Earlier in this century I began to have doubts about whether justice could always be served by the death penalty. What about cases where a defendant who has long since been convicted is exonerated?
Every 6 weeks for the past 30 years The Innocence Project exonerated men convicted of heinous crimes and sentenced to long sentences, which many served for decades.
Over 240 convicted and punished severely for a crime they did not commit were imprisoned. Everyone believed them guilty. The police. The prosecutor. The jury. The judge. The appeals courts. The TV and newspaper reporters. And most of the public.
Usually DNA tests proved they were not the perpetrator. Often the victim misidentified the accused, sometimes under intense pressure from prosecutors to say they were “100% sure.”
This project made me change my support for the death penalty. Two hundred forty plus men deprived of their liberty, imprisoned for something they did not do, separated from thousands of family members. Children who grew up without Daddy. Wives who lived without husbands.
No matter how certain you are that some TV trial defendant did it, you are seeing only the evidence that a judge has allowed. You are hearing the spin of the media, and most lean toward espousing guilt.
The very term “beyond a reasonable doubt” means different things to different jurors. When one juror refuses to go along with the other 11 jurors, he or she may be getting it right. They may be getting it wrong. Worst case scenario is the matter has to go to trial again.
The vast majority of criminal cases are won by the prosecution, which has greater resources, better relations with the public, the media, and the judicial system than the criminal side has. This is no surprise. Most charged with crimes are criminals and most who are sent to prison have a long list of known crimes. However, we cannot merely decide the person has a history of crime and therefore he probably committed this crime. As a society we must rise above “hopefully getting it right,” and make sure we do get it right.
There are terrible crimes such as rape and murder where evidence can be lacking or muddled. Eye witness testimony can be very shaky, no matter how sure or sincere the witness. Circumstantial evidence, including DNA evidence, is key to proving this perp committed this crime.
I believe we simply cannot risk putting to death an innocent man. Life without the possibility of parole is the maximum sentence I would prefer for our society. With a death sentence it is impossible to undo the damage if subsequent evidence proves the conviction got the wrong man.
I realize not all will agree. This is my point of view.
Copyright 2023, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.