During nearly 25 years as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, I received hundreds of requests for help from convicted defendants. None was more compelling than the hand-printed letter from Daniel Taylor, a 25-year-old inmate at Stateville Penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois. In neat block letters, Daniel explained that he was serving a life sentence without parole for a double murder in Chicago in 1992. Even though Daniel had given a court-reported confession, he said he was innocent and he had police records that proved it.
The letter was addressed to Steve Mills, my reporting partner on numerous stories about wrongful conviction. When Steve brought it to my desk, I was as intrigued—and skeptical—as he was. Why had this man confessed? How had he been convicted? Was he delusional about what the police records really showed?
But Daniel’s timing was fortuitous. It was the summer of 2001, and Steve and I, along with fellow reporter Ken Armstrong, were deep into an investigation of false and coerced confessions in the city of Chicago. Perhaps, we thought, Daniel’s case would provide a window into a world we suspected—and later proved—existed: a world where defendants were said to have confessed to crimes they did not commit.
Read more. [Image courtesy of Maurice Possley]
A complete concept of justice should more fully consider and understand the suffering of all those affected by crime. Justice should not be narrow, but expansive. It should consider all the contributing factors and consequences of crime and violence. It should go beyond simple reactionary instincts to punish, but instead focus on shared humanity and shared suffering. Justice should never be satisfied with incomplete narratives about crime that lead to harsh punishment, but should instead always strive toward fairness, equality and inclusion.
It’s time to shut down the state’s immoral, barbaric and broken system of capital punishment.
…and there’s a whole part of us that knows we can barely trust the government to fill the potholes… And (to) let you set up this system of deciding life and death?