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Copyright (c) 2001 The John Marshall Law School
The John Marshall Law Review

ARTICLE: PROCEDURAL REFORMS IN CAPITAL CASES APPLIED TO PERJURY

Winter, 2001

34 J. Marshall L. Rev. 453

Author

Steven Clark*

Excerpt

Governor Ryan made this announcement of a death penalty moratorium in Illinois after thirteen death penalty defendants had been freed from death row. 2 Examination of those thirteen cases reveals many interacting causes for the wrongful convictions. However, the most common and direct cause of those wrongful convictions is perjury, rather than ineffective assistance of counsel, or prosecutorial misconduct, as one might expect from the media coverage of the cases. 3 A number of the proposals to reform the capital case guilt/innocence determinations directly or indirectly address perjury.

This article will examine the Illinois capital cases where perjury has arguably played a role in convicting innocent persons. It will then consider the proposed reforms' prospects for reducing wrongful convictions and executions by reducing perjury. This article will not consider the total abolition of the death penalty. Although the author believes only its abolition can prevent the execution of an innocent defendant, the popularity of the death penalty and the resulting support for it among our political leaders has now focused attention on procedural reforms. This article's purpose is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of those reforms without tackling the abolition debate.

I. Instances of Perjury in Illinois Capital Cases

A. Perjury by a Retarded Girl in Return for Leniency
 
Paula Gray's perjury resulted in death sentences for two innocent men, Dennis Williams and Vernal Jimerson, for the 1978 murder and rape of a woman and her fiance. 4 Gray, a ...
 
 
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