Presidential contender Hillary Clinton was forced to defend her stance on the death penalty at Sunday night’s Democratic town hall in Ohio, after being confronted on the issue by a man wrongfully imprisoned for 39 years.
The man was Ricky Jackson, who, upon being freed in 2014, had served more time in prison than any other inmate in the U.S. who has been exonerated.
“I spent some of those years on death row,” he told Clinton Sunday night, choking back emotion. “I came perilously close to my own execution.”
“In light of what I just shared with you and in light of the fact that there are documented cases of innocent people who have been executed in our country, I would like to know how you can still take your stance on the death penalty,” Jackson asked.
Clinton stated in October that she opposes abolishing the death penalty “because I do think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty, but I’d like to see those be very limited and rare, as opposed to what we’ve seen in most states.”
She struck a similar note on Sunday. Her full response to Jackson is as follows:
While Bernie Sanders was not asked to address the question on Sunday night, he has come out against capital punishment in the past. He said during an MSNBC debate in February:
After Clinton spoke on Sunday, Jackson was asked whether he was satisfied by her answer and he responded “Yes.”
But her convoluted answer drew fire from progressives online, who disagreed with Clinton’s position as well as her reasoning.
As Harvard Law Record editor-in-chief Michael Shammas wrote late last month, “as a former defense attorney, Hillary knows better. She knows there’s no consistent way to reserve executions for just one sort of ‘heinous’ crime. She knows, for sure, that no matter how many safeguards there are, innocents will die. As with drone strikes, so with state-sanctioned homicide: There’s always collateral damage.”
“Secretary Clinton,” Shammas declared, “Not just Bernie Sanders, but a majority of Democrats, a fast-growing part of our party, is anti-death.”
“Join us,” he concluded.
Watch the exchange between Jackson and Clinton below: