On 28th June 2013, Saul Lehrfreund was invited to speak at a high level event “Moving away from the death penalty- Wrongful Convictions” at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon delivered the keynote speech in which he urged states to move towards the abolition of the death penalty. The event also featured a film clip showing of “West of Memphis”, a documentary which followed the events of three teenagers – Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Badlwin- who were convicted of the murders of three 8-year old children. The three men remained in prison for 18 years before being released in 2011, with the introduction of new DNA evidence.
Photo credit: United Nations Photo (Flickr, Creative Commons), https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode
Lehrfreund’s presentation focused upon the failure of judicial systems to identify and correct error in death penalty cases in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. He emphasised,
“Those facing the death penalty should be afforded special protection and all guarantees to ensure a fair trial above and beyond the protection afforded in non-capital cases.” He added, “The potential for wrongful convictions or execution of the innocent is why international norms require such high standards and a heightened sense of due process in capital cases. Unless and until states can meet the universally accepted standards, the death penalty should not be enforced. The evidence indicates that no system of punishment, however sophisticated, can eliminate the execution of innocent persons.”