column: Ramsey case and new technology cast doubt on death penalty


William Saletan writes on today that although he “viscerally” supports the death penalty, DNA exonerations have begged the question: "How confident are (we) that none of the 1,100 people we've executed (since 1976) will end up being exonerated by a technology we didn't use or possess at the time?"

Touch DNA, the method of testing that led Colorado prosecutors to announce this week that JonBenet Ramsey’s parents had been cleared in her murder, was also instrumental in clearing Tim Masters in Colorado after he had served 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit. With new methods of forensic testing constantly evolving, there is no room for the finality of the death penalty, Saletan writes.

I was about to write that we haven't yet executed anyone exonerated by DNA. But that's the wrong way to write the sentence. Here's the right way: We haven't yet exonerated by DNA anyone we've executed. The discovery comes after the act. … There's always more to be learned from a technology you haven't yet tried. You still have to make the best judgment you can at the time. You can't expect that judgment never to be corrected. But you have to leave it open to correction.

Read the full column here

. (, 07/11/08)

Read more about Touch DNA in the

Denver Post

, and watch a video on Touch DNA in the Jon Benet case on


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