Tuesday, May 22, 2012

But, I didn't do anything!

Hi Friends;
  I read the post below and imagined the horror of being charged with a crime and being innocent.  The powerlessness of knowing the truth and being unable, by lack of ability or the way things are formatted, to make others see that truth.  The dread, the absolute fear.
  I have been guilty all too often of a rush to judgement.  I don't have all the information, yet make calls based on presumption and even a want for the information to go a certain way.  I guess I'm not alone in that failing.  What frightens me is that the very professionals we ask to weigh the evidence and make good and fair judgements fail so often to do that very vital chore.
  We Americans are such a proud people, believing ourselves so very wise and grown up.  And yet, with less than 5% of the world's population, we hold 25% of those incarcerated.  Why can we not find better ways to help people be productive members of our society?  Why do we simply find locking a man, woman, or - horror of all - child away a viable manner of dealing with our problems?
  When I think on this, I think about this poem:

For Whom the Bell Tolls

by John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee. 

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

By Cassandra Stubbs, Capital Punishment Project at 6:09pm
This week, Northwestern and the University of Michigan law schools released a National Registry of Exonerations, a new database chronicling the ever-growing number of exonerees from our nation’s criminal justice system. The database includes over 2,000 people who spent time – sometimes decades – in prison after being wrongfully convicted of serious crimes. This includes over 100 wrongfully convicted of capital murder – which means they were awaiting execution before their sentences were reversed. The Death Penalty information Center, which tracks information about the death penalty, has documented 140 cases where inmates were released from death row with evidence of their innocence.

As astounding as the numbers in the database are, the list of the innocent is likely far longer than what is documented in this valuable resource - and not all of them were exonerated in time. Troy Davis, an African-American man in Georgia, Carlos DeLuna, a Latino man in Texas, and Cameron Todd Willingham, a white man in Texas, were all executed despite compelling evidence of innocence. The judicial system failed these men twice: it failed them first by convicting them of crimes of which they were likely innocent, and it failed them again by denying them meaningful opportunities to prove their innocence, in time to save their lives.

The National Registry of Exonerations compiles explanations across cases, helping shed light on just how these wrongful convictions happen. The explanations are themselves deeply troubling: false accusations or perjury played a role in a full half of the cases (51%); official misconduct contributed to a large percentage of the wrongful convictions (42%); and junk science or false or misleading evidence played a role in almost a quarter of the cases (24%). Although the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, along with many others, continue to push for important reforms in the area of junk science, it is hard to be optimistic that the problems of perjury or police misconduct will ever fully be untangled from the criminal justice system. Ending the death penalty will not solve these problems - but it will make sure that no one else pays for these flaws with his or her life.


Anonymous said...

Hallo Randy,
Guilty Until Proven Innocent?
Who has to prove the innocence?
The accused or the prosecutor?
Here in Germany, the accused shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty by the prosecutor and court.
In case of doubt:
"Innocent until proven guilty"
"In dubio pro reo"
"The benefit of the doubt"
Gruß Nikki

randy said...

Hi Nikki
That's the way it is supposed to be here in America. Unfortunately, the defendent all too often finds that not the case, the prosecutor is on a political run, the lawyer doesn't try, or the cards just seem stacked. Whatever the case, a rush to judgement can be so very costly, and in a death penalty case like the posts that Scottie has just recently put up, it comes with a price so unjust as to be criminal in of itself.
Please see his post re: Texas.

Gotta run.

Scottie said...

Hello Randy, what really bothers me is the lopsidedness the justice system seems to have become. The prosecution have much more money, more staff and the defense has to absorb staff and salary cuts, no money for expert witnesses.

It seems the game is rigged, from the cops who violate liberties and rights to get the one they think is the guilty party, to the D.A.'s who only want a politically correct win to use for election. Add to that mandatory minimums, and draconian sentences.

To me the system would be confusing to navigate, so a child or someone of lesser experiences would struggle even more.

And oh my Gods, the prison system is a horror beyond belief in this country. I wonder where there is hope...what can be done? Many hugs

randy said...

Hi Scottie;
Like many of the things in out federal and state government, such as taxes for example, the common person is so incredibly out of his element as to make it a literal act of foolishness to not secure a lawyer. And, while the ability of the state to draw on unlimited funds whereby they have the advantage of investigation, etc., and the advantages of first and last statements, the defendant has enjoyed the right of innocence until proven guilty, no double jeopardy, etc.
Yet, in some odd turn of events, the state has become greedy, wanting more and more of the pie until many rights are ignored by both the state and the judiciary - all in the name of "justice".
"Justice" is getting to be a real greedy and ugly bitch.