Former Justice Fights Death Penalty | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Former Justice Fights Death Penalty

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Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, flanked by Innocence Project attorneys the day of their release in 2008. The Brewer case convinced former justice Oliver Diaz to work against the death penalty.

Oliver Diaz says his first vote on the Mississippi Supreme Court was to "kill an innocent man." The man he's talking about is Kennedy Brewer, wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of a toddler in 1995.

Brewer spent six years on death row, and, although DNA evidence proved him innocent of the rape in 2001, he remained in prison until February 2008, when Mississippi finally exonerated him after Justin Albert Johnson confessed. Johnson's confession—backed up by DNA testing—also exonerated Levon Brooks, wrongfully imprisoned for a similar crime in 1990.

"Reflecting on my votes at the Supreme Court, I realized that there is just so much error involved in these cases that it's not worth carrying out the death penalty," Diaz told WAPT. "We have innocent people in Mississippi who have been sitting on death row for years."

Today, the former justice is in private practice and also works with the Innocence Project, an organization that works to free wrongfully convicted men and women from coast to coast. Innocence Project attorneys were responsible for securing Brewer and Brooks' freedom, the first DNA exonerations in Mississippi, and also worked to free Cedric Willis, who spent 12 years in prison after a wrongful conviction in 1994.

"We need to protect ourselves; we need to remove people from society," Diaz said to WAPT. "But we don't need to participate in the killing."

Previous Comments

ID
148825
Comment

what ?? no one has comments.............

Author
msearp99
Date
2009-06-18T21:35:54-06:00
ID
148828
Comment

Go ahead, Diaz. Life is too short not to do the right thing.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-06-18T21:54:12-06:00
ID
148834
Comment

This is great. I believe that slowly but surely, support for the death penalty will erode to the point where this country may have no choice but to abandon it.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-06-18T22:54:42-06:00

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