Floyd Bledsoe saw his first New Year's Day as a free man this year after spending 16 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. In 2000 he was sentenced to life in prison by a Kansas court for the murder of his 14-year-old sister-in-law. His conviction was based on a web of lies, failure to utilize available DNA testing, and alleged prosecutorial and police misconduct.
Now, at age 39, Floyd Bledsoe has been released and looks forward to rebuilding his life, but things could have gone very differently. Had Floyd Bledsoe been sentenced to death, he would likely have been executed by now, and never lived to see his name cleared.
Since 1973, there have been 151 exonerations of innocent people from death row. Floyd Bledsoe's conviction and the number of years it took to prove his innocence highlight the gravest imperfections in Kansas's criminal justice system. While we can't guarantee that no innocent person ever goes to prison again, we can make sure they're not executed by the state.
There is no way to justify a penalty as absolute and irreversible as execution in a system where there will always be a margin for error. The ACLU estimates that 1 in 25 people sentenced to death are likely innocent, and in 2015 the U.S. executed 29 people. In Kansas we currently have nine people on death row. If even one of them was wrongfully convicted, isn't the risk too high?