Sunday, May 4, 2008

Death Row Inmate Speaks in Knoxville

Exonerated Death Row Inmate Speaks in Knoxville

Curtis McCarty spent 17 years on Oklahoma's death row for a crime that he did not commit. On Thursday, April 24, Curtis shared this powerful story at the University of Tennessee Law School. The audience of 70 was comprised of undergraduates, law students, law professors, attorneys, and Knoxville community members. On Friday, April 25, Mr. McCarty spoke to students at Knoxville Catholic High School. After two assemblies and a class, Curtis spoke to a combined total of nearly 400 individuals.


Curtis begins his story by acknowledging how his bad choices--his juvenile history of drugs and crime-- led him to associate with the murdered individual, leading to death row. To Curtis, his poor choices prior to his incarceration played a large role in his ending up in prison.


Yet, the state of Oklahoma is ultimately responsible for sending an innocent man to death row. The case of Curtis McCarty is riddled with problems that suggest he was wrongfully convicted in the murder of Pam Willis: suppressed evidence, destroyed evidence, and perjured testimony.

The death penalty system is broken. 129 individuals have been released from death rows nationwide when evidence of their innocence emerged. Curtis knows this better than anyone, but he also knows that a life of crime made it easier for the state to convict him. It is a rare sight to witness someone so gracefully admit his shortcomings. He replied, "I was angry, in fact I was very angry. I soon realized though that bitterness is unproductive. I wanted to be productive, and I wanted to seek justice. In order to do this, I had to stop being angry and instead tell my story." The story of Curtis McCarty is a story that needs to be told, over and over and over again.

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