A man who served 39 years in prison confronted Hillary Clinton on capital punishment—and it was powerful

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During Sunday night's Democratic town hall in Ohio, a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 39 years asked Hillary Clinton about her support for the death penalty. It was an emotional moment.


Ricky Jackson was exonerated in 2014 after a witness recanted a statement connecting him to a 1975 murder. He told the Democratic frontrunner that he had narrowly escaped death for a crime he didn't commit. "I came perilously close to my own execution," he said tearfully.

It was a tricky question for Clinton who, in contrast to Bernie Sanders, supports the capital punishment. She told Jackson that she sees his situation, and others like his, as as a failure of our criminal justice system.


"What happened to you is a travesty and I can't even imagine what you went through and how terrible those days and nights must have been for all those years," she said, adding, "I would breathe a sigh of relief if either the Supreme Court or the states themselves began to eliminate the death penalty."

Clinton said she thinks the death penalty is appropriate only in extreme cases. "The kind of crimes I'm thinking of are the bombing in Oklahoma City…a very limited use of it in cases where there has been horrific mass killings."


For Sanders, the issue is clear: "Of course there are barbaric acts out there, but in a world of so much violence and killing, I just don't believe that government itself should be part of the killing," he said.

Jackson was reportedly satisfied with the answer.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.