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American Justice System Fails It

By Calalily in Politics
Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 02:45:53 PM EST
Tags: justice, courts, innocent, gulity, innocence project (all tags)

American newspaper headlines are filled with tales of innocents being released from prisons after serving decades behind bars, some who were on Death Row. Two hundred and fourteen (214) post conviction cases have been exonerated by DNA by the Innocence Project. That is 214 innocent people that have been put in jail for crimes they did not commit.

*Note: Although, this story is about the American Justice system, I have included links at the bottom of the story about wrongful convictions around the world.

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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:


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


What do you believe?
o Innocent until proven guilty. 72%
o Guilty until proven innocent. 12%
o Guilty Guilty Guilty! 8%
o or 36%
o If the cops arrested you, you must have done something wrong. 4%
o You believe Cops arrest the easiest person within reach. 56%
o Cops are good, regular people are bad. 4%
o Karma, you just didn't get caught until now. 28%
o Cops and prosecuters are doing the best they can, back off bitch 16%

Votes: 25
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Death Row
o Innocence Project
o circumstan tial evidence
o Scott Peterson
o Michael Peterson
o friend was found dead on a staircase. Also, let in at trial was evidence of his bi-sexuality
o Duke Lacrosse players
o Border Patrol agents
o Dan Abrams
o common causes
o Innocence Project website
o What can I do? This page at the Innocence Project outlines what you can do to help.
o 26 Year Secret Kept Innocent Man Jailed
o 2 Men Freed in Child Death Bite-Mark Cases
o Exonerated Mother Says Daughter's Killer Still Free
o Two Britons Cleared of Crimes
o Kevin Sweeney-Netherlands
o Benny Benham Jantharakul - Thailand
o Luke Atkinson and Michael Binnington in Cypress (From Essex)
o Press Releases Innocence Project
o Also by Calalily

Display: Sort:
American Justice System Fails It | 94 comments (53 topical, 41 editorial, 2 hidden)
Why Do You Hate America? $ (1.50 / 2) (#3)
by MichaelCrawford on Mon Mar 10, 2008 at 04:28:56 PM EST

Looking for some free songs?

I love America but the justice system fails. n/t (none / 1) (#4)
by Calalily on Mon Mar 10, 2008 at 04:32:43 PM EST

"So, what does this have to do with autoerotic asphyxiation? Or did your time machine break down?" b
[ Parent ]
Eh, take the good with the bad (2.00 / 3) (#6)
by Strom Thurmond on Mon Mar 10, 2008 at 04:35:06 PM EST

Two less tools in the world when both the Petersons get juiced.

VEGETARIAN: An Indian word meaning "lousy hunter"

The solution is easy. (2.00 / 3) (#19)
by V on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 12:19:38 AM EST

The falsely imprisoned for a number of years-- 20 seems OK-- gets one hour alone with a person of his choice that was involved in his conviction: judge, juries, prosecutor, his lawyers. He can request to have that person restrained and be provided with whatever tools he desires.

For less time he will be given all the properties and assets of a person of his choice involved in his conviction. In addition, fair compensation will be given by that person for the time he was imprisoned without the protection of bankruptcy.

The reason is simple: the people involved in his trial accused, convicted and sentenced him under false pretenses and in doing so ruined his life. Vengeance demands that he must be given the power to destroy someone's life.


What my fans are saying:
"That, and the fact that V is a total, utter scumbag." VZAMaZ.
"well look up little troll" cts.
"I think you're a worthless little cuntmonkey but you made me lol, so I sigged you." re
"goodness gracious you're an idiot" mariahkillschickens

Nah, better solution (2.25 / 4) (#28)
by rusty on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 10:58:28 AM EST

The wrongfully imprisoned get to assess damages directly to the municipality that put them there, to be taken from the budget of the prosecutor's office to whatever extent possible. I'd say $100,000 a year for lost income and ~$5,000,000 a year for pain and suffering would be about right.

Ruining two lives doesn't make up for ruining one. But if cities and towns started to realize how much it's going to cost them to make this kind of mistake, they might work a little harder to be sure.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

You solution costs the taxpayer. (2.80 / 5) (#31)
by V on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 11:35:21 AM EST

Mine costs the people involved.

Something people should realize is that unless people are directly affected they just don't give a crap. The prosecutor is just going to bitch about the budget but will not be affected otherwise.

Obviously ruining two lives does not make up for ruining one, but if your life could be ruined on the whim of someone whose life you ruined you can bet you will work a lot harder.

What my fans are saying:
"That, and the fact that V is a total, utter scumbag." VZAMaZ.
"well look up little troll" cts.
"I think you're a worthless little cuntmonkey but you made me lol, so I sigged you." re
"goodness gracious you're an idiot" mariahkillschickens
[ Parent ]

The people involved (2.00 / 2) (#34)
by wiredog on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 12:13:23 PM EST

And what if they don't have the cash?

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
[ Parent ]

They get the hour alone with the wronged. (2.66 / 3) (#67)
by V on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 02:07:30 AM EST

Maybe if the wronged is magnanimous enough he can request blood money from the guy and the guy can hope that his family friends are willing to pay/get in debt for him.

But in any case, with several people involved it is likely that someone has money.

What my fans are saying:
"That, and the fact that V is a total, utter scumbag." VZAMaZ.
"well look up little troll" cts.
"I think you're a worthless little cuntmonkey but you made me lol, so I sigged you." re
"goodness gracious you're an idiot" mariahkillschickens
[ Parent ]

Doesn't England charge people for incarceration? (2.75 / 4) (#20)
by Psycho Dave on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 05:18:54 AM EST

I think I read somewhere that in the UK, even if you were falsely imprisoned the government would assess fees to wrongfully convicted for room and board and take that out of any settlement they get from the state.

That's kinda fucked up; like sending a bill to the family of a condemned man for the cost of the bullet fucked up. Not that you're much better off here in America if you get let off. You'll still be failing background checks for years and depending on the crime stuck on some no-fly list or sex offender database for the rest of your life.

I say the just compensation for wrongful conviction should be $60,000 per year incarcerated, indexed to inflation and with interest added. Double that number if the person ended up on death row because of the bogus charge. Plus, open up all who were found to be involved with misconduct to civil suit. I'd throw in legal fees with all of this, but that might be too much to ask in reality.

HAHAHAHA (2.40 / 5) (#36)
by BJH on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 12:34:33 PM EST

In Japan, a 40-year-old taxi driver was arrested in Apr 2002 and convicted in Dec 2002 of rape and attempted rape, received a sentence of 3 years imprisonment, served 2 years and was released on parole in Jan 2005.

In Nov 2006, an unemployed 52-year-old man arrested for indecent assault confessed spontaneously to the two crimes for which the first guy had been convicted.

It took until Jan 2007 for the police to announce that the driver had been a victim of false arrest.

When the police told him of this, they also added that "while the police were at fault, so was he for not declaring his innocence more strongly".

It took until Oct 2007 for the court to overturn the original conviction, on the basis of:

  • the second man's confession.
  • footprints found at the scene of the crime that matched the second man's shoes (the police had not been able to find any shoes in the driver's possession which matched the footprints, but forced him to write in his statement that he had burned them).
  • the taxi driver's statement including a diagram of the rape victim's house that he stated the investigating officer had forced him to draw by holding his wrist and moving his hand while he held a pen.
  • the fact that the knife submitted as evidence did not match in any way the rape victim's description of the weapon.
  • the fact that the victim had stated that her hands had been bound with a chain, but the police submitted some plastic string found at the driver's home as evidence, and forced him to write in his statement that the victim had "misremembered".
  • and lastly, the fact that the phone company had a call record showing that the taxi driver had been making a call to his brother at the time the rape was being carried out, and that the police had been aware of this during the original court case.

The police have refused to punish the officers responsible for the original investigation, and have since stated to the media that they did not force him to write anything that appeared in his original statement.

The public prosecutor's office also refused to punish the prosecutors involved in the case.

The taxi driver has filed a claim for compensation to the court, but under Japanese law, the maximum amount that may be claimed is 12,500 yen (about $US120) per day that the claimant was held by the police or in prison (time after release from prison but before the conviction is overturned cannot be included).

So, as compensation for the nearly five years since he was arrested until his conviction was overturned, the absolute maximum sum he can receive is about $US120,000.

By the way, the taxi driver's father, who had been in hospital at the time of his arrest, died in mid-2002 while the driver was in a holding cell awaiting his rape trial.
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

What is astounding to me is that people do not (2.00 / 3) (#37)
by Calalily on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 12:44:19 PM EST

believe that confessions can be coerced. They believe that if it was them, they would not "crack" if they are innocent. So thus, they don't believe a defendant on trial that says his/her confession was coerced. That is why all confessions/interrogations should be video taped.

"So, what does this have to do with autoerotic asphyxiation? Or did your time machine break down?" b
[ Parent ]
The police have an answer for that, too. (3.00 / 3) (#43)
by BJH on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 12:57:51 PM EST

There's now new legislation in Japan that allows video of the suspect's interrogation to be submitted to the court in trials of serious crimes.

Of course, what actually happens is that the police and public prosecutor only submit the bits which help them make their case, but leaving that aside for a moment...

When the head of the prefectural police (think state police chief in the US) was interviewed about the false arrest of the taxi driver, he was asked whether he thought videoing suspects during interrogation was a good idea. He replied:

"No, because videoing would be an invasion of the suspect's privacy."
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

LOL. Good answer by him. (2.00 / 2) (#47)
by Calalily on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 01:27:50 PM EST

I also believe now, that a person accused or being interrogated should not have an "option" as to whether or not a lawyer is present; it should be automatic given the state of our justice system today. Cops can lie/trick and do whatever they need to, to get a "confession". I know in reality this will never happen as it would grind the process to a halt if everyone they brought in had to be given a lawyer. That being said, do not ever sign anything or make any statements if you are in custody or being questioned by the cops without a lawyer present or consulting a lawyer, EVEN IF YOU ARE INNOCENT. Look at what happened to the Ramseys for instance. The DA said in that case:
"Even I was convinced in the beginning that the Ramseys, that one of the Ramseys, was most probably the person who committed this crime," says assistant district attorney Trip Demuth, who was on the case the day it began.
"The evidence that points to the Ramseys I think, you know, is the fact that they were in the house at the time of the murder," he says.
He thinks the parents are guilty because they were in the house! WTF kind of evidence is that? If you follow cases throught he media and the trials on TV you will be truly outraged and frightened by what you see. You have to wonder what the hell are the juries thinking, when they dismiss all of the defenses arguments and testimonies from experts and base their convictions on convuluted "theories" they make up to MAKE the evidence fit their story.

"So, what does this have to do with autoerotic asphyxiation? Or did your time machine break down?" b
[ Parent ]
Juries (none / 1) (#91)
by Frank Anderson on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 05:50:18 AM EST

You have to wonder what the hell are the juries thinking...

Juries see all the admissible evidence; you see only what the media considers newsworthy.  Inevitably, you reach a different conclusion from the jury.

[ Parent ]
I read the court transcripts, autopsy reports. ect (none / 1) (#92)
by Calalily on Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 06:43:26 PM EST

If you had clicked on one of my links. you would see a trial lawyers brief for appeal for Michael Peterson. Also, I follow the trials and listen to the actual testimony whenever possible. Most of my opinions come from those observations not media. I did link to the media several places for my story because easier for laymen to read and access is limited or denied to be able to post trial transcripts by a link.

"So, what does this have to do with autoerotic asphyxiation? Or did your time machine break down?" b
[ Parent ]
Ah Japan (2.33 / 3) (#46)
by Altus on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 01:16:47 PM EST

"while the police were at fault, so was he for not declaring his innocence more strongly"

thats so Japaneses that it makes my head spin.

"In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women..." -H. Simpson
[ Parent ]

I usually think like this (1.50 / 2) (#22)
by rlazur on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 07:44:15 AM EST

I usually think like this whenever I watch Law & Order.  I still am not certain what the point of that show is: to show incompetent detective and prosecution, make me fear for my life like in this article, or believe that it's just Hollywood trying to make drama out of nothing.

Art imitates life. What I find intriguing is (1.50 / 2) (#44)
by Calalily on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 01:05:55 PM EST

on the fiction law shows, the cops/DAs will try to prove a man is innocent, does all this sleuthing with PIs, etc,  and gets him freed.In the reality shows and in real courts, that doesn't happen (except for the special lawyers like in the Innocence Project). I find it interesting that Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project started the project (1992) BEFORE OJs trial in 1995.

"So, what does this have to do with autoerotic asphyxiation? Or did your time machine break down?" b
[ Parent ]
i agree with what you are saying (1.66 / 3) (#38)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 12:46:40 PM EST

but i am for murdering most people i encounter on the internet in cold blood. does that make me bad in your eyes?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Not at all. I approve of serial killings as long (3.00 / 3) (#41)
by Calalily on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 12:55:19 PM EST

as they are for the greater good, you don't get caught, and an innocent doesn't get blamed.

"So, what does this have to do with autoerotic asphyxiation? Or did your time machine break down?" b
[ Parent ]
I'd agree but... (1.50 / 2) (#55)
by The Amazing Idiot on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 04:39:23 PM EST

Who's "greater good" metric would you use?

That matters a lot.

[ Parent ]

The person doing the killing gets to decide. (2.75 / 4) (#57)
by Calalily on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 05:36:35 PM EST

"So, what does this have to do with autoerotic asphyxiation? Or did your time machine break down?" b
[ Parent ]
Sounds like. (none / 1) (#77)
by The Amazing Idiot on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 11:55:52 AM EST

You'd have one hell of a less population to deal with. Not that would be a bad thing.

I can see sniper rifles going through the roof in price though.

[ Parent ]

So what's the point of a justice system? (none / 1) (#84)
by Pentashagon on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 08:59:43 PM EST

Just let sociopath serial killers hunt down all the criminals for free. I mean, why pay the cops and judges in the first place if they would do the same thing on their own? Is it just protection money to keep them from preying on "normal" citizens?

[ Parent ]
They don't choose criminals for their victims... (none / 1) (#86)
by Calalily on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 10:07:20 AM EST

...but if they did that would work nicely.

"So, what does this have to do with autoerotic asphyxiation? Or did your time machine break down?" b
[ Parent ]
The legal power is already here.. (none / 1) (#87)
by The Amazing Idiot on Sun Mar 16, 2008 at 05:05:44 PM EST

We have letters of marquee, along with the absolute punishment: revoking citizenship.

Once we declare they are their own state, we levy war against them along with allowing others to do as they see fit.

It's in there in the constitution.

[ Parent ]

I have never been able to understand (2.00 / 2) (#53)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 04:23:51 PM EST

why cops will frame an innocent man. You'd think they'd want to do their very best to get the right person imprisoned, lest a violent criminal go free at the cost of an innocent man's freedom.

Looking for some free songs?

Case closure rate (2.66 / 6) (#54)
by rusty on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 04:38:21 PM EST

...that and the fact that for the most part, the person you can convict was the person what done it. I think cops generally get used to the idea that there's always some possible uncertainty in everything.

What I never understood is what kind of damage you have to sustain in your life for becoming a cop to look like a good idea in the first place.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

My father was a cop for a while (2.62 / 8) (#59)
by ksandstr on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 06:07:16 PM EST

I guess it was the most he could get with an evening-classes education, plus it got him a driver's license (which was rather dear, there being all of ~35,000 cars in all of finland at the time). Property crimes, burglaries mostly. Knows how to pick a lock rather fast and how to crack a proper lock with a long enough pair of suitable tongs. Studied law at the same time, eventually got his degree and started his long walk in the official hierarchy of the regional VAT administration.

Apparently people who end up as cops are ordinary until they enter the system. The environment, and the power, then bends them into the power-tripping arseholes that everyone always curses. Stanford prison experiment and all that.

Perhaps my father's case is exceptional; for him being a cop was a placeholder for something more ambitious. Can't even begin to imagine what a lifetime of that sort of work would do to a person.

[ Parent ]

I know... (2.25 / 4) (#79)
by The Amazing Idiot on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 11:59:28 AM EST

If I was an evil person who wishes direct power over lesser peoples, I'd become a policeman.

It really is a no brainer. Tell people what to do, and if they dont do it, shoot them. What other non-military occupation are you allowed to kill other human beings without punishment?

If I was a serial murderer, I'd be a cop. I would know the games and the traps and all the tricks to evade.

[ Parent ]

A cop in Norway in the...1960's? (none / 1) (#82)
by Booger on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 02:25:29 PM EST

That sounds like a dream job to me.  Very little violent crime, fresh sea air, all the smoked herring you can eat...  

If you ever do any creative work, you should write/film the story of your dad's life during that time.


There's a tidal wave of mysticism surging through our jet-age generation--George Clinton, "Better By The Pound"
[ Parent ]

lines of code written this week: (none / 1) (#70)
by skyknight on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 08:27:41 AM EST


It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
It's not about crime, it's about punishment. (3.00 / 5) (#72)
by vectro on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 07:40:14 PM EST

Cops don't set people up because they are worried about the "real" killer going free; instead, they find someone who looks like he "has it coming", and use the system to pusish him for whatever it is he might have done.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
The only punishment for crime that should exist: (1.75 / 4) (#58)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 05:53:06 PM EST

Swift, immediate death by bullet to the back of the head.

That should keep the people in line, should it not?

"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
WIPO: FNH $ (3.00 / 2) (#61)
by Smiley K on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 07:26:03 PM EST

-- Someone set up us the bomb.
so much correct; yet you also fail it (1.75 / 4) (#64)
by zenofchai on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 08:47:27 PM EST

your throwaway depiction of the duke lacrosse case in the same breath talking about people serving decades behind bars or being sentenced to death is pretty fucking stupid. let's recap: rich kids don't even stand trial and spend less barely an hour getting booked, not even a night in jail on the one hand; on the other years and years in prison, often (particularly in sexual offense cases) the subject of incredible abuse at the hands of fellow inmates.

i've volunteered a hundred hours to local innocence projects and followed a half-dozen innocence cases quite intimately -- some that ended up being provable, others where people whom i still fully believe are innocent remain in prison without much hope of remedy.

this complete departure from perspective, along with just plain inaccuracies in the simplistic description of the lacrosse case itself, don't add to the story.

it's also a tale of greed. humble, forgiving men like hunt should not be placed in the same article as vindictive, attention- and money- grubbing lacrosse players who demand multiple times the recompense which hunt received for a scant fraction of the injury.

and the DA in the lacrosse case hardly "conspired to convict innocent young men to further his career". just a moronic statement from someone who has obviously 0 clue-in apart from whatever media and blog coverage they've decided to summarize. he was found guilty in a bar proceeding of making unfavorable statements to the media and of making false statements about a piece of complicated scientific evidence and its handing by a 3rd (non-government) party laboratory.

but hell yes the justice system fails it. what's funny is that one of the people known for ethics and justice (nifong) gets thrown out on his hat for spectacularly fucking up a outsourced dna test evidentiary proceeding, and crooked prosecutors who work hand-in-hand with crooked police spend fruitful careers full of promotions and favors for putting black men in prison in the 70s and 80s.

as long as voters want to elect prosecutors, judges, mayors, attorney generals, governors, and all manner of other officials who are "tough on crime!" and "get convictions!" this is the mess we're going to have.

+1, btw.
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph

some things sound bogus (2.00 / 2) (#66)
by khallow on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 01:10:48 AM EST

This organization sounds like a vehicle for rich defendants. I'm not clear where your bland assertions that Scott Peterson and Michael Peterson are "innocent" comes from. They may or may not be innocent, but juries make decisions based on information that isn't present on biased web pages.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

erroneous meme as well... (2.50 / 2) (#74)
by Wain on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 08:01:55 PM EST

proof comes before STFU.

NOW YOU TELL ME! n/t (none / 1) (#75)
by Calalily on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 09:02:05 AM EST

"So, what does this have to do with autoerotic asphyxiation? Or did your time machine break down?" b
[ Parent ]
this is what happens when you don't read lolcats! (none / 1) (#83)
by Wain on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 04:42:45 PM EST

[ Parent ]
you don't notice any relationship (1.50 / 2) (#76)
by rhiannon on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 11:19:46 AM EST

between this issue and your pathological hatred of pedophiles?

or do you think canada has got it perfect?

I continued to rebuff the advances... so many advances... of so many attractive women. -MC

percentage rate (1.00 / 2) (#78)
by shokk on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 11:57:15 AM EST

214 people out of the 3 million or so currently incarcerated is a pretty good rate.  That's 0.007% wrong.  I understand that for the individual in that place, it is wrong, but to say that the system has failed for something that is statistically negligible is sheer stupidity.

The systems works as far as humanly possible.  Nothing is perfect, nothing ever will be perfect.  It's nice to strive for perfection, but don't be surprised when things match the tolerances of reality.  Again, I'm glad they're not me.
"Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart, he dreams himself your master."

0.007%? Actually, I find that there's a 99% chance (2.66 / 3) (#81)
by yuo on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 01:23:29 PM EST

that you're completely full of it.

First, I'd like to reference http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/prisons.htm as my source of statistics, and point out that, at least in 2004 (which according to the 2006 report is the latest public statistic on this), 52% of the prison population has been convicted of violent crimes. It also says that there were 2,258,983 total prisoners in prison at year end 2006.

The Innocence Project has overturned 214 convictions based on DNA evidence. At first glance, I'd say it is a fair assumption that they are looking at cases of violent crimes. Otherwise, where's the DNA? By your logic, that comes to a ~0.018% (not .007%) chance that a violent offender may be exonerated using DNA evidence, or more clearly, about 1 inmate in 5500 violent offenders.

However, there is an even greater problem with your argument: You're comparing a number that can increase or decrease with a number that only increases. If the Innocence Project continues freeing the wrongly convicted at a rate of 10 people a year (since the first DNA exoneration happened in 1989), then your exoneration percentage will rise. After 1 year, about 0.019% of violent offenders will be exonerated. I'm assuming that the prison population doesn't rise accordingly, but for that to happen, there would need to be 2.36 million incarcerated in total, or about 100,000 more people in jail after 1 year.

To "sum it all up", people like you shouldn't be allowed to use the term "statistically negligible". It doesn't mean "a number that looks quite small to me".

I wish I had thought of pants pants pants pants pants pants pants pants.
[ Parent ]

Stats Error (3.00 / 2) (#93)
by tanner andrews on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 02:36:26 PM EST

214 out of ~3M incarcerated might be a very good rate, if it were true.

However, it actually reflects only 214 out of the (a) lifers/death row folk (b) who received attention from an innocense project and (c) had DNA evidence available (d) for which the State Atty's office did not object to testing.

Since the majority of incarcerated folk are not in group (a), they don't get any chance of falling into group (b). Instead, they'll do their time and get out. We taxpayers will have paid to incarcerate wrong people, accomplishing nothing.

Worse, while we're paying to incarcerate wrong people, the ones who should be in jail are still out there, robbing, killing, raping, and concealing evidence in the State Attorney's office. I hate paying to incarcerate people anyway, but I recognize the need when we're getting the right people. I see no value or negative value in incarcerating wrong people.

Wrong people, by the way, include some real skunks. I remember one case where everyone in the office knew this guy was guilty. He was the kind of person who would do it, he had done it before, and no one liked him anyway. You can imagine our surprise when reviewing the video showed not only that he had not done it, but that the proof of innocence had disappeared into the state's custody and did not reappear.

Were it proper for the state to introduce all these facts about the guy, he'd surely have been convicted. So it is with many of these wrongful convictions: the defendants are often not nice people, in many cases they are the wrong color or have the wrong sexual interests or both, and they tend to be impecunious. Present such a picture, and it's easy for the jury to convict. Even if he did not do this one, he has surely done others or is of such a type as to do others if not incapacitated by imprisonment.

[ Parent ]
Nice...thanks for adding your insightful (none / 0) (#95)
by Calalily on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 10:58:28 PM EST


We are maggots tunneling through a rotting corpse. QuantumFoam
[ Parent ]
There are so many problems (2.33 / 3) (#88)
by jubal3 on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 07:40:15 AM EST

with the US justice system it's hard to know where to start.

It's not just with false convictions, which, to be honest, is a pretty small number.

I think what represents a larger problem is sentence disparity and the selective prosecution of individuals.

As it stands now, its not just that people are wrongly convicted of capital murder, it's that capital murder charges are almost never filed against the wealthy, or even the solidly middle class, except in the most egregious cases.
With the poor however, essentially any killing other than heat of the moment crime of passion stuff gets an almost automatic bump to a capital case for some "special circumstance."

Add to this the enormous number of crimes for which their are statutory minimum mandatory sentences, and the poor and the powerless pretty well get slam-dunked even for fairly minor offenses, while those who can afford good lawyers don't even get *charged* under minimum mandatory statutes.

There are a host of reforms drastically needed to get the U.S. out of the prison business and into the crime prevention business. Among these off the top of my head:

1. Disallow (don't ask me how to do it) selective prosecution where people with public defenders get charged with more severe crimes than people with fancy lawyers for essentially the same actions.

2. Decriminalize possession of small amounts of most drugs.

3. Make 3-strikes laws apply only to repeat violent offenders for VIOLENT offenses or do away with them.

4. Make sure juries are fully informed about the entire consequences of conviction. The silly idea that juries should only decide guilty or not-guilty based upon what the lawyers argue with no regard for the consequences of their decisions is silly. Juries should always have the option to convict of a lesser offense

5. Frankly professional juries (one-time public service jobs with a short duration) are something worth looking into in a serious way. The pond scum I see sitting on most long trials couldn't make a tough decision in a complicated case any more accurately than just a coin-toss.

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***

better system? (none / 1) (#89)
by Haxx on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 10:50:57 PM EST

  Of course the judicial system has problems. Trial by jury is the best way we know of. What is the alternative?

_Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

Fixing the American justice system in four steps (none / 1) (#90)
by daani on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 12:28:42 PM EST

Based on several courtroom drama programs I have seen.

1. End the insane war on drugs. Your legal system has not got the resources to administer justice and also lock up every dope dealer or user. De minimis non curat lex, for fucks sake.

2. End the ridiculous idea of "plea bargaining". One of two things are happening in that scenario - either a guilty man is dodging his rightful punishment because the government prosecutor is overworked or doesn't trust the courts, or an innocent man is going to prison because he has no faith in the courts and doesn't want to risk a draconian increase in his sentence because he had the gall to protest his innocence. Neither outcome should be acceptable to Americans. Point 1 will need to be implemented before you have the resources to do this.

3. End trial by jury. It is an expensive, inappropriate mechanism. The system has appeals mechanisms enough in place to deal with any rare instances of a biased judiciary.

4. For the same reason, end mandatory minimum punishments. Mandatory minimums are based on two ideas: (1) Judges are all a pack of left-wing softies, and (2) politicians who spend all of 5 minutes considering "law and order" as a big issue have a better idea of how to deal with individuals they have never even seen than the judge who has just overseen their case and has significant investigative resources at his/her disposal. Nobody seriously believes that, right?

In short - enough gamesmanship, enough politics, more professionally administered justice!

Plea Bargaining Considered Non-Harmful (3.00 / 2) (#94)
by tanner andrews on Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 02:55:59 PM EST

End the ridiculous idea of "plea bargaining". One of two things are happening in that scenario - either a guilty man is dodging his rightful punishment because the government prosecutor is overworked or doesn't trust the courts, or an innocent man is going to prison

I beg to differ.

In the civil arena, most cases settle. Depending on type and court, it typically ranges from about 93% to about 97%.

That does not mean that in 97% of the cases one side or the other was wrong, or undercompensated, or overcompensated. What it means is that in most cases, it is possible to work out something that both sides can live with. That's not so hard as you might think, because neither side likes the cost of trial.

Criminal is not that much different. You start with the state atty, who is pretty reliable about overcharging so he has room to negotiate or (in years divisible by 4) so he can claim to be tough on crime. A plea bargain counts as a conviction.

Now, let us not get too misty-eyed about the horribly overcharged defendant. In many cases, they have done something to draw official attention. Consider the drunk&disorderly person. He's going to be charged with d&d, perhaps, but the S.A. is also going to add battery, resisting arrest, irritating a police officer, maybe even felony battery if there was any blood during the bar fight.

That defendant is going to spend the night at Camp Swampy or at a similar facility. The next day he should have a first appearance. We can plead him out for d&d/some days in the jail, or we can fight it. The bail bondsman will charge more than any fine, and you don't get that back just because you were not guilty. If the kid has sobered up, and looks like he has maybe learned a lesson from spending the night, then we're all better off reaching a deal.

The cost of taking it to trial is also prohibitive in criminal matters. The burglar we catch has probably done several for which he hasn't been charged. I suppose we could try him for all of them, but realistically he's probably going to get about the same sentence no matter how many convictions we get. That's a policy decision, by the way, and reflects a vague legislative understanding that the thing which gets his attention is the sentence, where a series of sentences won't have much more deterrent value.

If we get him to plead to one or two burglaries and take a term of years up there in Starke, we don't have to pay to try the case. And we get him off the street for a while. Perhaps we get his attention and when he gets out he will do better, though frankly I'm not so sure.

It's the same result as in the civil case. We reached an agreement that both sides can live with. The burglar is doing a few years up in Starke, we don't have to try the case, and he is not burglarizing houses for the next few years.

That's not only the common outcome, but it is also distinguishable from either of your two options.

[ Parent ]
American Justice System Fails It | 94 comments (53 topical, 41 editorial, 2 hidden)
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