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View Diary: Morning Feature: To free the innocent (with poll and matching gift) (90 comments)

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  •  Indeed (7+ / 0-)

    the vast majority of police officers and so on want to arrest guilty people; and, very often, they do arrest guilty people.  But everyone makes mistakes..... and sometimes they are deliberate.

    •  That's why this project is so important. (9+ / 0-)

      Yes, there are people who make malicious mistakes in the criminal justice system.  And even setting those aside, there are innocent mistakes where someone makes the best decision he/she can on the information he/she has, and it turns out to be wrong.  That's why we have appellate review, and it's also why we need groups like The Innocence Project to reexamine cases that weren't corrected on initial appeals.

      The "moral" of yesterday's diary was that we need careful, thorough review of criminal cases where new evidence comes to light.  We can't have a mistake-free trial system; it's simply not possible in any system involving human beings.  Appellate and other post-conviction review is not "efficient," but it's a necessary redundancy.

      Every one of those mistakes is a moral stain on We the People.  Criminal cases are styled State v. Jones or People v. Jones or U.S. v Jones for good reason; the alternative is Pissed-Off Posse v. Jones.  But that means We the People assume the risk of the mistakes, and We the People are morally culpable if the mistakes are left uncorrected.

      •  Let me ask you something Crissie (6+ / 0-)

        If a lawyer on either side appears to be totally unprepared to present a case, can a judge hearing the case intervene?  We've all heard stories about lawyers (usually Defense) sleeping during the trial, and other examples of shoddiness, so does the judge have the authority to remedy a bad situation?

        •  That's a very difficult question. (7+ / 0-)

          In theory, the judge can intervene sua sponte if he/she sees a clear injustice.  In practices, judges are loathe to do so because that can give an impression of partiality.  It happens more often in bench trials or other proceedings where there's no jury.  But if the jury is in the courtroom the judge's commitment to impartiality weighs against intervening unless it's a manifest injustice.

          That said, I've seen judges do that in subtle ways, e.g.: "This would be a good time for a break, so we can all get some coffee."

          Translation: "I'd appreciate it if counsel - and the jury - would wake up and look interested, since this is a criminal trial and that's kind of important to some of us, including the defendant, the victim, and society as a whole...."

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