The cries of innocent victims who are convicted and thrown into the dark cavernous prison cells are not being heeded. They cannot afford the type of lawyers needed that will fight to prove their innocence. The American justice system is convoluted and broken, making it almost impossible to prove innocence in the face of circumstantial evidence. The character of the accused is put on trial to convict a person rather than direct evidence. Direct evidence is often lacking; so, in its stead prosecutors use theories and suppositions to help convict the accused.
Juries are convicting innocents repeatedly because they lack fundamental knowledge of the legal system and of the definitions of key legal terms and processes, and often hold antiquated belief systems concerning confessions, eye witness identifications and witness testimonies. Assumptions are made rather than facts being actually assimilated, correlated, and proved; thus, the innocent are convicted, incarcerated, and left to rot.
Time and time again I have watched trials where the husband has been accused of murdering his wife and the prosecution "alleges" that she found out he was gay, or found out he had a mistress, or found out he had child porno on his computer SO HE MUST HAVE KILLED HER! No direct evidence existed that she found out, or that they even had an argument concerning those matters. In some cases, the defense even provides evidence that the wife knew and didn't care. Despite the lack of direct evidence some juries then use the prosecution's "evidence" and their own personal views/biases to convict.
STFU or proof you ask? Read the time line and forensic evidence for Scott Peterson and the forensic evidence for Michael Peterson. Also, read all the case files at the end of this story.
Scott Peterson was convicted of killing his pregnant wife Lacy and unborn son Conner in California, and was sentenced to death in 2005. In Scott Peterson's trial, no forensic evidence existed except for one lone hair in a pair of pliers. Eye witness accounts from neighbors prove that Lacy was alive when Scott left for his fishing trip. The main evidence used for conviction was two facts, he was at the marina the day Lacy went missing, the same marina where Lacy and Conner's bodies were eventually found a month later, and he had an on going affair even after she disappeared. Was he a dumb fuck? Hell yeah! Was he guilty? There was no evidence that showed beyond a reasonable doubt that he indeed was; more evidence proved he was not.
Michael Peterson was convicted of killing his wife, Kathleen in North Carolina, in 2003. He found her injured at the bottom of a staircase in the couple's home, where she died. In Michael Peterson's trial, evidence was allowed in about the death of a friend in Germany 13 years before, where the friend was found dead on a staircase. Also, let in at trial was evidence of his bi-sexuality. (Read page 1 after 2 for more on state's convoluted evidence). However, evidence that the friend died of a stroke and natural causes was somehow not considered in the case by the judge or jury as relevant I guess. The evidence used to convict him was based on the fact he was bi-sexual and two women he knew died on staircases (must not be coincidence). Forensic evidence did prove there was no blood splatter evidence of an object being swung repeatedly to beat his wife Kathleen in the head. However, blood and hair evidence was found on two stair steps and the door jam showing she hit her head more than once in an apparent fall.
Also, consider what happened with the Duke Lacrosse players, where the District Attorney himself conspired to convict innocent young men to further his career. Another case involved El Paso, Texas Border Patrol agents.
Another problem is how the media reports breaking crime news stories, sometimes releasing grossly incorrect or misleading information regarding a case and tainting the jury pool. The media feel no responsibility in the role they may play for wrongful convictions. Dan Abrams, a MSNBC legal correspondent states [sic], "The presumption of innocence does not and should not exist outside a courtroom. Think about it. For to us presume someone innocent is for to us presume the authorities got it wrong whenever they arrest someone. I'm not willing to assume that unless I'm a juror. It's a legal fiction that was designed for the courtroom."
According to the Innocence Project, the following are some of the common causes of wrongful convictions: (See the Innocence Project link above for more detailed information on the causes listed below.)
- Eyewitness Misidentification
- Unreliable or Limited Science
- False Confessions
- Forensic Science Fraud or Misconduct
- Government Misconduct
- Informants or Snitches
- Bad Lawyering
So, how do we fix this problem? The Innocence Project states that, "Over the last 15 years, there has been a major shift in criminal justice legislation as a result of DNA exonerations. Policymakers are increasingly recognizing and addressing the problems these exonerations demonstrate - and they are beginning to enact common-sense reforms that have been proven to improve accuracy in the criminal justice system."
However, there is much more that needs to be done. Each state decides what reforms they will enact, if any. Many times, even after a person is proven innocent, the person still waits for months and even years to be released due to a legal system that recognizes the conviction over the evidence of innocence. A federal protection act should be legislated that if a person has been exonerated, he/she should be released immediately, and not be subjected to waiting months or years for the courts to entertain appeals to overturn the convictions, or wait for a governor to grant him a pardon.
Juries need to be educated before they take their seats. A mini-class, if you will, on the definitions of key legal terms, procedures, and the rules of evidence. In particular, they need to know the difference between circumstantial evidence and direct evidence.
District Attorneys should be held accountable for the cases their prosecutors bring before them. Prosecutors need to be held to a higher degree of accountability when presenting their "theories" of circumstantial evidence. If it is proven that they misrepresented the evidence, then they should be liable and prosecuted themselves.
Evidence that is not directly linked to the case, such as porno on computer drives, affairs, or sexual orientation issues should never be allowed in to assassinate the accused's character to further the states case when no direct link exist between those issues and the issue being prosecuted.
Contact your legislators and District Attorneys in your cities and states telling them how you want change for the justice system and protection for the innocent being wrongly convicted of crimes. Go to the Innocence Project website and read about the cause of wrongful convictions and what can be done to bring about reform. Most of all, educate yourself and those around you about the problems our nation faces concerning wrongful convictions and help those unheeded cries be heard.
What can I do? This page at the Innocence Project outlines what you can do to help.
Cases of the exonerated: