Ricky Jackson Asked Hillary Clinton About the Death Penalty

Ricky Jackson, who spent 39 years in prison — including two years on death row — for a murder he did not commit, confronted presidential candidate Hillary Clinton this weekend over her stance on the death penalty. 

"I came perilously close to my own execution," Jackson told Clinton, describing his path to exoneration.

"In light of what I've just shared with you and in light of the fact that there are undocumented cases of innocent people who have been executed in our country," Jackson said, "I would like to know how can you still take your stance on the death penalty."

Clinton came out against the death penalty at the state level, saying that she'd reserve the capital punishment option at the federal level for terrorists and mass murderers. (She cited the Oklahoma City bombing as an example.)

"I would breathe a sigh of relief if the Supreme Court or the states themselves began to eliminate the death penalty," she said. “Where I end up is this—and maybe it’s a distinction that is hard to support—at this point, given the challenges we face from terrorist activities in our country that enter under federal jurisdiction, for very limited purposes it can still be held in reserve for those.”

As recently as last fall, however, Clinton has said that she's against abolishing the death penalty. 

Media outlets pounced on the comments yesterday, asserting a "flip-fop" angle, and there is some scrutiny warranted here. Nuance is one thing, and Clinton has couched herself in that rhetorical world throughout her campaign, but this might have been a great opportunity to further clarify her stance on the death penalty — and not just when its use would be appropriate, but how its intersection with wrongful convictions can be solved on a national scale.

Jackson said he remains an undecided voter as of Sunday.

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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