Imagine that you are convicted of a crime that you didn’t commit and then sentenced to life in prison. Twenty years after your conviction, changing technology makes new ways of analyzing evidence possible, proving your innocence. The DA for the state still, knowing that you are innocent, manages to use the legal system to keep you in prison for another decade. He even does so far as to hide the fact that the only witness in the case had died.
Mr. Lott tried vacate his conviction in 2018 based on exonerating DNA results, but former District Attorney Paul Smith opposed the motion. Instead, on the eve of Mr. Lott’s evidentiary hearing, the DA offered only to modify Mr. Lott’s sentence, which would have released him from prison but kept the conviction on his record. Mr. Lott accepted the agreement on July 9, 2018. In doing so, Mr. Lott was freed after spending 35 years in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit- with 10 of those years being served AFTER the legal system knew that he didn’t commit the crime. That’s a legal system, not a justice system.
“Former District Attorney Smith’s opposition to the irrefutable evidence of Mr. Lott’s innocence was a blatant miscarriage of justice,” said Barry Scheck, Innocence Project’s co-founder and special counsel. “This unwillingness to acknowledge the truth in addition to the systemic factors at play in Mr. Lott’s wrongful conviction cost him 35 precious years — and have plagued other wrongful conviction cases in Ada for decades.”
It’s cases like this that force me to oppose the death penalty. The cops, the prosecutor, the judges, they all work for the same employer. It is virtually certain that some people have been executed for crimes that they didn’t commit. If we as a society execute one innocent person, we are all collectively guilty of murder. That is why I remain opposed to the death penalty- the system is flawed, designed to reward those employees of the government for convicting people of crimes, whether or not the convicted person actually committed them.
In this case, they took his life from him, or at least the part that counts, nearly as certainly as if they had killed him.