Two saved from death row when innocence established after trial

An issue that concerns both opponents and proponents of the death penalty is the possibility that an innocent person might be executed. Two relevent cases are described below:m

''I was two hours away from my scheduled execution,'' Isidore Zimmerman recalls.

He had been convicted of lending a gun to persons who murdered a detective. But at the last minute his sentence was commuted to life. Nearly 24 years later a relative obtained a statement from a trial witness (no longer subject to prosecution) admitting perjury against Zimmerman. In 1962 a court overturned his sentence and ordered him freed. He now lives in New York with his wife, who stuck by him throughout the ordeal, and lobbies against the death penalty.

Earl Charles, a black, was convicted in the slaying of a father and son in Savannah, Ga. He claimed he was not guilty. Eventually his mother located a police officer in Tampa, Fla., who said he had seen him in Tampa the day he was accused of being in Savannah committing the crime.

A motion for a new trial was granted, overturning the death sentence. But the state chose not to prosecute. Charles was freed in 1980 after 31/2 years.

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