Another of the periodic death penalty controversies is unfolding in Florida. The stay of execution for James Dailey expired yesterday. Governor Ron DeSantis now has to decide whether to grant him a new clemency hearing, or uphold his death sentence. So far, the Governor has not been sympathetic.
New evidence provided by the co-defendant in the Dailey’s murder case has been offered by Jack Pearcy, Dailey’s co-defendant in the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. Pearcy was sentenced to life in prison, Dailey to death. Pearcy has written a letter declaring, “James Dailey had nothing to do with the murder of Shelly Boggio. I committed the crime alone.” A federal judge issued a stay until Dec. 30 to give attorneys an opportunity to file appeals.
As the New York Times argued in an editorial, Dailey’s conviction also depended heavily on the testimony of a repeat jailhouse snitch who had a cozy relationship with the prosecutors. The Times says, “The rank injustice of cases like James Dailey’s provides yet another reason, as if more were needed, that the death penalty must be abolished.”
No, it doesn’t. I haven’t studied the case, but based on what I’ve read, it certainly appears that Dailey might be innocent, and thus in his case, the death penalty is unjust. (I agree with the Times that jailhouse snitches are unreliable witnesses and should be regarded by juries with skepticism. On the other side, I don’t find a late claim of guilt exonerating a co-defendant especially persuasive. The guy is locked up for life; he has nothing to lose or gain. ) Continue reading