Friday, March 12, 2010

In Search of the 54

I recently made the outrageous claim that Texas has executed 54 innocent people since 1976, give or take some statistical variation.  I calculated that number using ratios of people exonerated from death row to people executed. That ratio for Texas was a paltry 2.4% compared to 14.1% for the rest of the nation. Assuming Texas juries were no more wise or foolish than the rest of the county, that discrepancy suggests that Texas has executed 54 innocent people, give or take.

I've decided to find the 54.

That sentence was surprisingly easy to write. It's going to be hard as hell to accomplish. I start with an unfortunately large list of 450 people executed. If I were able to round up and evaluate the information on one person per day, it would take me a year and a half. But it will take many, many days per person.

I recognize also, that I will never be able to "prove" any of them to be innocent. I will have to establish some criteria by which I include or exclude people from the list. I will have to be satisfied to allow the list to grow slowly, since I begin with no time to spare for this massive effort. I'll probably have to recruit help. I'll have to be clever.

As I said, it won't be easy. Nonetheless, I've decided to find the 54. I'll keep you posted.

Part II is here.

Part III is here.

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