Former death row inmate confronts Hillary Clinton about death penalty stance

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During a Democratic town hall, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton was asked about her pro-death penalty stance by a man who was almost put to death after being wrongfully convicted.

Ricky Jackson spent 39 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.  He was 18 years old when the testimony of a 12-year-old boy put him behind bars.  Jackson would’ve been killed if Ohio hadn’t outlawed the death penalty in 1978, before reinstating it in 1981.  He was sentenced to life in prison and eventually freed after the key witness in his case recanted his testimony.

During Sunday’s town hall, Jackson challenged Clinton to justify her stance when cases like his existed. How could Clinton continue to support the death penalty, he wondered, when there was the possibility that innocent people, like himself, would be killed without cause?

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Clinton responded by saying that she would like to see the frequency of death sentences go down and would fight to get states to improve their courts.  She also explained that she would still keep the sentence in place for extreme crimes, such as domestic terrorism or “horrific mass killings.”

She then expressed her condolences to Jackson, saying, “What happened to you is a travesty, and I just can’t even imagine what you went through and how terrible those days and nights must have been for all of those years… I hope that now that you are standing here before us that you will have whatever path in life you choose going forward and that you will get the support that you deserve to have.”

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This isn’t the first time Clinton has had to address the death penalty during a democratic debate.  Last month, Clinton and Sanders disagreed about whether the death penalty is ever appropriate, with Sanders denouncing it entirely.  Clinton called upon federal powers to help correct flaws in the system.

“What I hope the Supreme Court will do is make it absolutely clear that any state that continues capital punishment either must meet the highest standards of evidentiary proof of effective assistance of counsel or they cannot continue it,” she said.

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Jackson won a 2 million dollars compensation award for his wrongful conviction from the Ohio Court of Claims, which reportedly amounts to $5.92 for each hour he spent in prison.