This country reached an ugly milestone today. The 1000th person to be executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 was put to death this morning in North Carolina. Kurt Rosenberg, director of the Philadelphia-based Witness to Innocence Project, has a moving editorial on the death penalty in this morning’s Inquirer, “A system that too often sacrifices the innocent.”
On a related note, those in Philadephia might want to check out the film After Innocence this weekend at the Ritz at the Bourse. The documentary tells the horrifying and hearbreaking stories of seven men who spent years in prison (one of whom spent twenty years on Death Row) before being exonerated on DNA evidence. Two of the men in the film are from the Philadelphia area, Vincent Moto and Nick Yarris.
There will be a Q & A panel discussion on both Friday and Saturday following the 7:20 p.m. showing of the film. Friday night features Tonya McClary (moderator), National Criminal Justice Director, American Friends Service Committee; exoneree Vincent Moto, After Innocence producer Marc H. Simon; and David Rudovsky, civil rights attorney and law professor (and ACLU board member).
Saturday night includes two exonerees from the film, Vincent Moto and Dennis Maher; filmmaker Marc H. Simon, and Maddy deLone, the executive director of the Innocence Project. The panel will be moderated by Jeff Garis, former executive director of PA Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty, who also appears in the film.
It’s worth noting that in Pennsylvania, wrongly convicted people who are exonerated and freed from prison currently receive no compensation for their lost years and ruined lives. Legislation has been introduced in Pennsylvania that addresses this issue. House Bill 1473 has been introduced by Representative Mike McGeehan (D-Philadelphia) and it currently is in the House Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 945 has been introduced by Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny County) and it currently is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.