Oh we receive hints from time to time.
I love reading the Tao and Proverbs and a number of bundled hints telling us how to live a good life, but context is everything. And the hints are contradictory; even when they appear in the same tome.
One sage tells you that a penny saved is a penny earned.
Yet another corporate sage instructs that you must make your money work for you—and it aint gonna work for you in a savings account with a cap of .7 % APR.
Honor thy father and thy mother.
But be your own man.
But all things come to he who waits.
Better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man is convicted.
I bring this last proverb up from our forefathers, because it flies in the face of the single most important slogan repubs ever came up with:
LAW AND ORDER
District Attorneys run on their record and their record is based upon one statistic and one statistic only:
Out of 600 blogs over the last couple of years I would bet one out of ten involves something about the conviction rates in this country.
Nobody beats us. We arrest more people and convict more people and imprison more people than any other country on this planet; and I aint talking some ephemeral per capita rate.
There seems to be some dispute as to whether or not China has us beat by a few thousand inmates. BUT CHINA HAS FOUR TIMES OUR POPULATION. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States
Look, we have almost three million people either in prison or in jail in this country on any given day. And there are another six or seven million of our ex citizens on probation or parole.
I say ex citizens because in most places in this country an ex felon cannot even vote.
(And just as an aside, in every single job application I have ever read there is a demand that you inform your prospective employer as to whether or not you have ever been arrested. What in the frick does that have to do with anything? If you are innocent until proven guilty, what business is it whether or not you have ever been arrested? And in almost every police drama on TV the police confront a ‘suspect’ with the fact that he/she has a prior ‘arrest record’. So much for the adage that you are innocent until proven guilty!)
On the face of it, one would think that we would need twelve times that number just to put together jury panels.
But jury trials play such a small part in our penal system that they almost become irrelevant.
You see, after someone confesses his/her crimes and pleads guilty; THAT COUNTS AS A CONVICTION.
So these D.A’s (state and federal) usually brag about an 89-92% conviction rate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conviction_rate
Lawyers are really only peripherally involved in 90% or more of the felony or misdemeanor convictions in this country.
The police are responsible for the arrests and convictions of the vast majority of ‘criminals’. Once you are arrested, the law and order game is just about over for you.
If the OJ Simpson trial taught us anything, it was that a full fleet of attorneys can tear apart the testimony of just about any witness for the prosecution.
How many real examinations are performed on chain of custody issues regarding any particular case?
How many real examinations are performed with regard to the taped confessions of any particular arrestee?
And even if you make it to trial, in most cases the jury is going to hear something on tape that the prosecution is calling a confession.
My buddy OG sent me this little squib from the New York Times which was the igniting force for this rant:
Eddie Lowery lost 10 years of his life for a crime he did not commit. There was no physical evidence at his trial for rape, but one overwhelming factor put him away: he confessed.
At trial, the jury heard details that prosecutors insisted only the rapist could have known, including the fact that the rapist hit the 75-year-old victim in the head with the handle of a silver table knife he found in the house. DNA evidence would later show that another man committed the crime. But that vindication would come only years after Mr. Lowery had served his sentence and was paroled in 1991.
“I beat myself up a lot” about having confessed, Mr. Lowery said in a recent interview. “I thought I was the only dummy who did that.
An article by Professor Garrett draws on trial transcripts, recorded confessions and other background materials to show how incriminating facts got into those confessions — by police introducing important facts about the case, whether intentionally or unintentionally, during the interrogation.
To defense lawyers, the new research is eye opening. “In the past, if somebody confessed, that was the end,” said Peter J. Neufeld, a founder of the Innocence Project, an organization based in Manhattan. “You couldn’t imagine going forward.”
If you find the time check out a great film entitled: Under Suspicion (2000). The film stars Morgan Freeman as the cop and Gene Hackman as the suspect. Irony of ironies, Hackman’s character is an attorney.
Hackman ends up confessing to rape and murder and Wiki suggests that Hackman’s character confesses because:
1. He comes to believe his wife may have murdered the girls out of jealousy, and confesses to protect her.
2. He thinks she had gone to great lengths to set him up, and confesses as an act of suicide out of despair for his ruined relationship.
3. He comes to feel that no one trusts him, is distraught as the negotiation reminds him of his ruined relationship, and confesses as an act of suicide.
His confession comes just prior to the arrest of the real slime who committed these heinous crimes.
I do not have any real answer to all of this. No real conclusion. I spose I sound a little like Hugh Laurie:
I will try to sum up by simply making these suggestions:
- There is no such thing as an innocent man. We all hold some guilt for our past behavior.
- We have too many laws on the books. I firmly believe that everyone in this country could be convicted of something.
- We have too many people in our prisons. We should have commutation boards in every single county of every single state in this nation set up by the President of the United States and hundreds of thousands of people should at least have their sentences commuted. Fyodor Dostoyevsky was freed due to a blanket pardon rendered by the Tsar without regard to guilt or innocence.
- There are rapists and murderers who must be imprisoned. I have met evil people and evil people belong in prison. But you cannot tell me that 2.7 million people need to be imprisoned in one country in order to keep its citizens safe.
- Plea bargaining as a useful tool of the prosecution should be examined. I hate national panels and commissions as such, but Jesus H. Christ; there should be some national standards as to how this tool is used.
- MAXIMUM AND MINIMUM SENTENCES SHOULD BE ABOLISHED except in the most heinous of cases.