Gore, a death penalty supporter, 'troubled' by false convictions
Appears at news conference with Minnesota Gov. Ventura
MINNETONKA, Minnesota (CNN) -- Hours before the latest Texas execution, Vice President Al Gore reiterated his support of the death penalty, but said he is deliberately not involving himself in the "specifics of cases in the criminal justice system."
Gore also said Thursday that he and others who support capital punishment "have to acknowledge that even the finest system of justice will inevitably ... produce some errors." He praised Gov. George Ryan, R-Illinois, for imposing a moratorium on executions in his state after several false convictions were revealed.
Gore said Thursday he was "troubled by false convictions", during a news conference with Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura
"As a supporter of the death penalty, I am deeply troubled by any false conviction for obvious reasons," the Democratic presidential hopeful said. "Wherever the evidence indicates that there are a lot of false convictions, there should be a very careful review of how the system of justice is administered, and that is in the hands of the governors and the various state legislatures."
"Any state that has a record comparable to that found in Illinois, I think would be justified in also having a moratorium," Gore said.
The newly energized debate over the death penalty seems to have bedeviled Gore, at least as much as his Republican rival
George W. Bush. As governor of the state with the highest number of executions, Bush has come under pressure from anti-death penalty opponents. Such pressure was especially intense in the case of
Gary Graham, a convicted killer who was executed Thursday night in Texas.
Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson witnessed the execution and had harsh comments for Bush and Gore afterward.
"Here in this state it was the action of Governor Bush and the silence of Al Gore that is our challenge tonight. Leadership at its best must be bold, it must be fair, it must in fact mold opinion and not just follow opinion polls," Jackson said outside the Texas prison where Graham died.
Gore, speaking at a news conference in Minnesota with Gov. Jesse Ventura at his side, said the "number of errors should be zero" when the death penalty is enforced. He said DNA testing was helping "call into question" some convictions on death row.
"That's why we're having this national debate," he said. "I don't think that the national debate is being caused by a basic rethinking of the question, 'Should the death penalty be available?' A lot of people feel that it's wrong. I respect their view deeply, but I disagree with it."
"Whether you support or oppose the death penalty, everybody wants to see the administration of justice without these mistakes -- with competent counsel, with a system of justice that operates effectively," he said.
The news conference took on a lighthearted tone when a CBS reporter's cell phone went off. "Is that Dan Rather?" Gore asked. Told that it wasn't, Gore walked over, grabbed the phone and said, "This is Al Gore." He then handed the phone to Gov. Ventura after a brief chat.
When another reporter's phone rang, the vice president was quick to answer it. "Hello, Gore news conference," he said to cackles from the press corps. "Yes, this is the vice president."