More on Tainted Evidence

Slate's blog on legal issues.
March 23 2008 1:34 PM

More on Tainted Evidence

Diane's point is well-taken: If the evidence is tainted, it's tainted for purposes of conviction, as well as for sentencing, and it's just as tainted if the defendant gets a long prison sentence as it is if he gets a lethal injection. If the conviction is "clean," by contrast, it's clean irrespective of the nature of the sentence he receives.

Yet I think Emily is onto something anyway when she says that she doesn't "want this country to be a place where people are sentenced to die based on a prosecution that is tainted by torture testimony." Death, after all, is different in many ways, some legal, some prudential. I'm willing, for example, to see a conviction sustained on a weaker factual record than the record on which I'm willing to see a capital sentence carried out notwithstanding the fact that as a purely legal matter, the evidentiary threshold is the same: proof beyond a reasonable doubt.


That's why I've been cheered at times when governors (and President Clinton once) commuted death sentences to life in prison based on residual doubts about the integrity of a trial record but did not act against the conviction itself. Something similar may be at work here. The stakes in the MCA's softening of the traditional rules of evidence are particularly high in light of the availability of capital punishment in this case. Put another way, I think many people would not argue against conviction of someone who had been waterboarded upon capture if the government can prove his culpability without the use of tainted evidence. Many more, I suspect, would argue in principle against his execution , even if the evidence is clean.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?