Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of Delma Banks, a man who killed his 16 year old co-worker and stole his car in 1980. Prosecutors had withheld evidence that refuted the case that the man, who had no prior criminal record, would be a continuing danger to society, a factor juries take very seriously when considering whether to impose the death penalty. In 1999, the man’s new legal team tracked down one of the witnesses, who admitted that he’d set the guy up. He also admitted lying on the stand when he said that he was not being paid by the government for his testimony. The government never corrected that lie. The second witness gave damaging testimony and said that he had not been coached by the police. But after the new defense lawyers got a judge to force the prosecution to turn over the district attorney’s files, they found a transcript from 1980 that showed the witness was exhaustively rehearsed before testifying.

People complain about the long period of time between conviction and execution. But it took 19 years for the new lawyers to get access to the proof that the prosecution not only withheld important evidence at the trial, but continued to lie about the information well into 1999. Prosecutors lie, about the most important things. And sometimes it takes years to discover that. What would have happened if these prosecutors had simply removed the transcript proving the witness was coached from the file?

What’s scary is not how long the appeal process takes, but how close Banks came to being killed.

And its worth keeping these lies in mind when we hear about how people held in Guantanamo Bay will be held indefinitely.