Dr. Oz Mad John Fetterman Hired Wrongfully Convicted Men Instead Of Imprisoning Them Forever
The Dr. Oz campaign this week, in the parlance of the FOX News headline on the subject, "BLASTED" John Fetterman for hiring two brothers wrongly convicted of murder to be staffers on his campaign and then called on Fetterman to fire them in order to prove to Pennsylvania that he is not soft on imaginary crime.
“John Fetterman consistently puts murderers and other criminals ahead of Pennsylvania communities,” said Brittany Yanick, communications director for Doctor Oz for Senate. “John Fetterman’s even trying to hide his record from voters by running TV ads saying he’s tough on crime. His positions – including releasing one-third of inmates onto our streets – says otherwise as does the fact that he hired two convicted murderers on his campaign. If John Fetterman cared about Pennsylvania’s crime problem, he’d prove it by firing the convicted murderers he employs on his campaign.”
While this is presented as something that was recently discovered through FEC filings, Fetterman announced back in April of last year that he was proud to have Dennis and Lee Horton working on his campaign. There was literally a PBS mini-documentary on it in October!
The Horton Brothers spent 28 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. Long story short, they gave a friend, Robert Leaf a ride one night, and it turned out he had just shot and killed a man in a bar during a robbery. They were pulled over by police who arrested them all, assuming they had all been involved. While Leaf pleaded out, the brothers maintained their innocence, went to trial, were convicted of second degree murder, and remained in prison until they were released in 2021 thanks to a commutation for which Fetterman had fought for years.
The brothers would have spent far less time had they admitted to the crime — Leaf got out in 2008 — but they refused to do so and maintained their innocence throughout.
The super fun thing about our American "justice" system is that you are in a better position to get out of prison if you actually committed a crime than if you didn't. While we know, for an absolute fact, that people are wrongly convicted all the time, we punish convicts who maintain their innocence with longer sentences than they would get were they to have confessed to a crime they didn't commit. Indeed, in most cases, people cannot get paroled unless they confess to the crime for which they were convicted, whether or not they actually did it. However, if they give a false confession during these hearings and are not paroled, the hearings can then be used against them if they try to appeal their conviction. Truly, it is a whole world of bullshit.
Oh, and let's not forget that Antonin Scalia once said that "actual innocence" is not a constitutionally recognized reason not to execute someone.
The Oz campaign also "BLASTED" Fetterman for having "recommended 46 commutations of life sentences compared to just six in Wolf’s first term, none under Corbett and five under Rendell," and opposing automatic life-without-parole (LWOP) sentences for first and second degree murder. Pennsylvania is one of five states making up half of all US LWOP sentences (with California, Florida, Louisiana, and Michigan), so it's hardly as if they haven't gone a tad overboard. This is not controversial. Last year, a bipartisan group of Pennsylvania legislators introduced a bill that would give those serving LWOP sentences a chance at parole.
What is it that Oz thinks should happen when people are wrongly convicted? Should they just stay in prison forever anyway? Should they not be allowed to have jobs? If that's how he feels about innocent people who have spent decades of their life in prison, I can't imagine what he thinks ought to happen to those who were guilty but have served their time. How is it that he and Brittany Yanick think this should work? Because smart people might think it would be preferable for the formerly incarcerated to get jobs and be reintegrated into society rather than be driven to commit more crime in order to survive.
Generally speaking, most Americans actually do not feel great about our mass incarceration situation. Even Republicans! Seventy-one percent of us believe that prison sentences are too long. The same percentage agrees that incarceration is often bad for public safety because “sending someone to prison for a long sentence increases the chances that he or she will commit another crime when they get out because prison doesn’t do a good job of rehabilitating problems like drug addiction and mental illness.” Podcasts and documentaries have exposed millions of us, in recent years, to the ways police and prosecutors scheme to convict innocent people and send them to prison for crimes they didn't commit.
If anything, all this "BLASTING" does is highlight how extremely awesome Fetterman is on the issue of criminal justice reform and how deeply out-of-touch Oz is with, well ... everything, really.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse