Oct. 14, 2011 – During a presentation at the University of Houston Law Center last night, three death row exonerees from Witness to Innocence spoke against the death penalty while encouraging more than 30 law students in attendance to be “diligent and ethical” lawyers. The American Constitution Society for Law & Policy sponsored the event with two University of Houston Law Center student organizations, the Association of Future Prosecutors and Advocates for Life.
“Since 1973, 138 people in 26 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence,” said Ron Keine, an exoneree released in December 1975 after spending 2 years on death row in New Mexico. “Our criminal justice system fails to protect innocent people from wrongful convictions and death sentences. I can’t think of any scenario where the death penalty is appropriate because you can’t release an innocent man from the grave.”
In addition to Keine, Dan Bright and Albert Burrell shared their stories at the event. Exonerated in 2003, Bright spent nine years in prison, four of which were on death row in Louisiana. Burrell was released in 2001 after spending 13 years on death row in Louisiana. Burrell came within 17 days of execution before winning a stay in 1996.
The visit was part of the Texas Witness to Innocence Freedom Ride, an event where exonerees from seven states take their message across Texas through mid-October. The Freedom Ride will culminate with the 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty in Austin on Oct. 22 at 2pm.