On Sunday evening, CNN held a Democratic Town Hall in Ohio ahead of Tuesday’s big primaries. One standout moment included Bernie Sanders calling Donald Trump “a pathological liar” after Trump blamed Sanders and Hillary Clinton for the Chicago protests. An even more substantive section involved Clinton’s capital punishment stance. While on the campaign trail last fall, she spoke against abolishing the death penalty, which she maintained should be used in “certain egregious cases.” Clinton urged the federal government to examine how the penalty is applied too often and sometimes with discrimination. Her stance set her apart from Sanders, who wishes to abolish the death penalty altogether.
At the town hall, an undecided voter named Ricky Jackson confronted Clinton. Jackson, who spent 39 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, explained his experiences on death row. He was wrongfully convicted of killing a salesman based upon the (later-retracted) testimony of a 12-year-old witness. After losing nearly four decades of his life, Jackson came “perilously close” to being executed, but was freed in 2014 thanks to efforts by an activist group. Jackson asked Clinton to explain how she can justify supporting the death penalty while knowing about the documented cases of innocent people being convicted. Here’s how she responded:
“That’s the exception that I really am struggling with and would only be in the federal system, but what happened to you was a travesty, and I can’t even imagine what you went through and how terrible those days and nights must have been all those years, and I know all of us are so regretful that you or any person has to go though what you did.”
Clinton admitted struggling with the concept of the death penalty, and she addressed the difficulty of answering the question in such a public forum. She still supports capital punishment, but believes states aren’t capable of conducting fair trials. For this reason, she believes the death penalty should be limited to federal rule and only for “horrific mass killings” such as the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing or other instances of terrorism.