“Everybody gets something out of taking a man’s life” – campaigner

Following the execution of convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner, the death penalty is once again dividing the US. Among the activists for the abolition is Darby Tillis, one of the first to be exonerated from death row.

He was arrested in 1977, found guilty of murder and sentenced with the death penalty. He was put in prison awaiting the execution. But it turned out he was innocent. He was released after nine years in jail. Ever since, he has devoted his life to the campaign against the capital punishment.

Darby Tillis says it is easier to find a “guilty” person quickly and convict him or her.

“It’s all about money, this criminal justice system, it’s about greed. We don’t have money to try death penalty cases,” he says. “Judges use it to build a political foothold. State attorneys write books, public defenders get on TV, policemen move up in rank. So everybody gets something out of taking a man’s life.”

Ordinary people do not go into details of a particular case, thus the death of an alleged criminal does not provoke many emotions, Tillis maintains. “People think, ‘If the police rolled him up, he must be guilty. If they got him in a court, he must be guilty.’ So they feel that one more bad person [has been] taken off the street.”