... if someone had died in the armed robbery and rapes for which Alan Crotzer was tried and convicted here in Florida in 1981. He likely would have received the death penalty, and might not be alive to hear a judge say today, "Motion granted — you are a free man."
No one died, so Crotzer was sentenced to 130 years, a virtual life sentence. But he was released on Monday after newly tested DNA evidence convinced prosecutors and a judge that he was innocent.
The death penalty is wrong in all instances. But that injustice is infinitely multiplied by the possibility that re-testing of DNA evidence, using more sophisticated techniques, will reveal that an innocent person was executed. After all, as we were reminded on Monday, innocent men do get sent to prison.
There have been no confirmations of truly innocent people being executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, but there is a very real risk it might have happened or could happen in the future. After all, more than 120 inmates have had their death sentenced commuted or thrown out because of new doubts about their guilt.
Clemency was possible for Alan Crotzer. For the wrongfully executed, there can never be such justice, except for an abolition of the death penalty.