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May 27, 2008

Good news: Man gets pardoned for a crime he didn't commit. Bad News: 86 years after he was executed. (Aurvant)

It happened in Australia, but that doesn't make it suck any less. I never really understood the whole mess of formally pardoning someone after a country has wrongly executed someone, for I've always felt that, in the end, the executioners (being the state/country/city) end up owing the family or descendants far more than just "whoops, we screwed up".
Authorities in the Victorian state pardoned Colin Campbell Ross, who was hanged for raping and murdering a 12-year old girl and dumping her body in an alley in 1921. The Ross case has been controversial since he was executed 115 days after his arrest, with witnesses saying he was at work at the time of the crime and with Ross going to the gallows protesting his innocence.

The prosecutors relied on hairs found on a blanket at Ross's home, which experts at the time said came from the murdered girl Alma Tirtschke, and from a jailhouse confession, reported by a fellow inmate who had convictions for perjury.

But a researcher found the hairs used as evidence against Ross in an archive in 1995, and new tests proved they did not come from the murdered girl.

And the wonderful evidence of DNA testing has finally cleared this man's name. However, while this might be well and good it's not like the guy didn't have witnesses to vouch for where he was. Not to mention the whole "going to the gallows to protest his accusation" thing. Still, that isn't the reason why I posted this article. The real reason is the spin that the country is trying to apply upon the case:

Australia is a strong opponent of the death penalty, with the last
hanging taking place in Melbourne in 1967 when petty criminal Ronald
Ryan was executed for his involvement in a prison escape, during which
a prison guard was shot dead.

Hulls said the case was a warning to anyone who believed Australia should re-introduce the death penalty, which was formally abolished in Victoria in 1975.

Ah, so even though he is being pardoned he is now going to be made as a precedent on why the Death Penalty should never be used again. I guess if you were going to politicize someone's death I imagine that stuffing it in there with a pardon (even 86 years after the fact) would be the place to do it. The only problem with using this as an example or a warning? It was 86 years ago. They didn't have DNA testing or forensic studies like they do now.

Sure, it would have served as a great reason to consider the death penalty a last resort when in serious doubt about a suspects innocence. However, in today's world, it is nearly impossible to get away with any crime that they can't pull some type of evidence off of you and connect you to it. With the safe-guards that we have today to help keep truly innocent people out of jail I don't see why people who are truly guilty and irrefutable evidence is stacked against them....I don't see why the Death penalty can't be enforced.

Surely it's better than having them live off the taxpayers for the next 40-50 years or so, right?

Anyways, at least they cleared his family's name even though it took them nearly a century. A nice gesture, but a little hollow in my eyes.

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posted by xgenghisx at 04:49 AM

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