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To follow up on my diary from a few days ago, there was some talk in the comments about resources being wasted, essentially, on inmates who seem to have no redeeming qualities, for whom certainty about their crimes seems assured. Never mind that the diary was about one of those sorts of prisoners, making the case against executing even them.

This morning, though, I heard of a case from Texas. It would be Texas, sadly, although I wouldn't put it past happening here in Arizona either. Thanks to the authorities involved, you might never have known of the evidence that led to an exoneration. They ignored it, they suppressed it, they mocked it. And twenty-five years later, somehow the innocent man who spent the prime of his life in prison just wants to see legislation passed so this doesn't happen again.

I can't imagine where he finds the will to not seek a more vengeful outcome against the authorities who mocked and taunted and profited from their work, as the DA who put him in prison is now a state judge.

I listened to this story on NPR this morning, and they have a corresponding article on their website. It is well worth the read or a listening-to, as I can only quote so much. This is how Michael Morton was portrayed to the jury by the district attorney, who now makes apologies and denies responsibility and doesn't recall...well, anything that would put any responsibility on him, I suppose.

Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson used it to weave a sensational tale of unspeakable violence. In Anderson's version of the crime, Morton used a wooden club to viciously bludgeon his wife's head because she wouldn't have sex with him. Then, in triumph over her body, he pleasured himself. The mild-mannered pharmacy manager was transformed into a sexually sick, murderous psychopath.
And the jury bought it. And the man went to jail for murder. Could well have been put on Death Row, had the circumstances been a little different. Thanks to the pro bono work of Morton's lawyers, however, we know a little more about those circumstances than the jury did. That a man with a green van was seen casing the house and the neighborhood. That there were fingerprints, found and ignored. That a bloody bandanna was found by a deputy and left there. That a credit card of the victim, Morton's wife, was later used in San Antonio. That her purse had been stolen -- oh, but this notion was mocked by the authorities. That Morton's son may have been there and seen the crime happen. Sad, to consider that this man also lost his relationship with his son, who was made to keep quiet.
And so Morton didn't get to see Eric grow up. When Eric was 12, he stopped seeing his father in prison. When he was 18, he changed his last name from Morton. That broke his father's spirit. Fourteen years into his life sentence, Morton hit absolute bottom.
It was apparently the bloodied bandanna that was eventually tested for DNA, but only after years. It's hard to imagine being put in this situation. What motive do the DAs have for this sort of demand, to essentially plead guilty in return for a proper investigation? I can think of at least one answer. It's a demand that few innocents would accept. And if they did, it would be that much easier for the authorities to make excuses.
How was Morton finally freed? His wife's brother had found the bloody bandanna the police left later that day, and he turned it in. For years, Williamson County fought Morton's requests to have the evidence in his case tested. Prosecutors ridiculed his efforts and taunted him, saying they'd consider DNA testing the evidence only if Morton would first take responsibility for the crime.
The blood exonerated Michael Morton, and indicted someone else, one Mark Norwood. According to the investigation of the Innocence Project, Norwood seems to have perpetrated a similar murder after that of Morton's wife -- putting the authorities in the uncomfortable situation of having let a murderer go kill someone else while they put the wrong man in jail.

So the ex-DA, now judge, Ken Anderson, says he knows he didn't do anything wrong. That he doesn't remember if he did reveal the exculpatory evidence to the defense, but that the law said he had no duty to do so. That's his defense; a technicality. I suppose that may comfort him, if not Michael Morton, or Phillip Baker, the husband of that second victim uncovered by the Innocence Project. Where DNA from the second crime scene matched the bloody bandanna from outside the Mortons' home, the evidence that the police chose to ignore.

So the legislation that Michael Morton wants passed would take the law license away from a prosecutor who withholds exculpatory evidence and gets caught. And he's getting back together with his son. The rest is damage done.

Hopefully, cases like these -- and make no mistake, it's cases, plural, the article cites more than forty exonerations in Texas in the past few years -- may help to explain some measure of distrust that I harbor for the criminal justice system, and why I find it ill suited to hand out the death penalty. People like Michael Morton can at least be exonerated, let out of jail to perhaps enjoy what's left of their lives, perhaps be compensated through lawsuits.

But as much as the authorities may seek to bury evidence in a case like Morton's, it seems obvious that they would work at least as hard to hide a mistake with no take-back, where the victim has been executed. And we've seen some evidence of that in Texas as well, where Rick Perry interfered with the Texas Forensic Science Commission and may have been covering up the execution of an innocent man on his watch.

We have a system of justice where the police may miss or intentionally ignore evidence, where juries may seek the sense of safety a conviction provides, where district attorneys build their careers on putting killers in jail, and where the authorities have an obvious motivation to cover up any mistakes or shortcuts along the way. A system where they may demand a guilty plea in return for something, or for not doing something. Can we trust a system like that with the power of life and death, where you might never know if there's more to the official story?

Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 7:55 AM PT: Thanks for the rescue and the rec - I always appreciate the opportunity to get a good story read by a few more folks.

Just wanted to add, before this diary drops off the spotlight, that Melissa Harris-Perry spent part of her first hour this Sunday morning talking about the death penalty. Hopefully they'll put some video clips online later.

http://mhpshow.msnbc.msn.com/

Originally posted to The Tytalan Way on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 10:32 AM PDT.

Also republished by Abolish the Death Penalty and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (109+ / 0-)

    "Creationists make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night." - Isaac Asimov

    by tytalus on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 10:32:31 AM PDT

  •  Speaking of Texas, even more bad news there. (25+ / 0-)

    Anthony Bartee, despite exculpatory evidence, is slated to die 5/2. More info at http://tcadp.org/...

  •  reminds me of the Sam Sheppard case (20+ / 0-)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/...

    where incompetent police work and a DA with tunnel vision ensured that an innocent man was destroyed while the guilty party (in all likelihood) was never punished.  It is an object lesson for any jury but not one many juries remember.  In today's lottery of a justice system, over 70% of cases are plea bargained; in some jurisdictions, it is 100%.  In the cases where it goes to trial, over 70% of defendants are convicted.  The Innocence Project estimates 10% of inmates are incarcerated for crimes they did not commit.

  •  in the Dr.William Petit case (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tom Anderson, sb

    there is no doubt.they were caught red handed.Conn. ending the death penalty will not affect them.there is still a needle in their future.

  •  I lived in Texas for about 20 years. Half my life. (25+ / 0-)

    I have seen horrible crimes committed by law enforcement and the courts in the name of "justice". I have seen a sitting governor, later a two-term President, openly mock (an admittedly guilty) death row inmate in a press conference hours before her execution. No matter how you feel about the death penalty (I am personally against it in all cases) that is frankly disgusting, what Dubya did.

    Fortunately, the press in Texas is still free, and these things got written about. Often. There was never a shortage of controversy when it came to someone being put on death row.

    There are corrupt judges and prosecutors everywhere, but they are particularly abundant in Texas. Hell, my traffic lawyer once stood by in a judge's chamber and actually encouraged me to accept the Judge's offer of dismissing an expensive ticket (for passing a school bus that had not opened its doors until I was practically passed it) by writing a check to his re-election campaign. That's right: my own attorney told me to bribe a judge. It's done all the time.

    Our justice system is a joke.

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

    by commonmass on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 02:18:56 PM PDT

    •  PS: I made my lawyer write the check. (15+ / 0-)

      He agreed: I didn't want to commit a Felony. Not surprisingly, my lawyer was happy to do it for me.

      Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

      by commonmass on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 02:21:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank goodness I don't live in a state (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tytalus, Sue B, kyril

      that elects its judges.  Can you imagine being a criminal defendant really close to election day?

      Russ Feingold supports Obama in '12 and so do I.

      by darboy on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 07:58:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Appointed judges are no better (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tytalus

        because there are no means  of restraining them.

        I had the happy occasion of being hauled before such a  judge for a non-jury trial on a bad bust.  To cover up police misbehavior, the local DA posed me a yes or no question about the circumstances, but that was a mans of suppressing the truth.  If I said "no" I would have been clearly perjuring myself.  But to say "yes", unmodified, served to falsely incriminate myself.  The actual answer was "yes, but...", but the judge refused to allow me to make that answe, and demanded the "yes or no" answer.   When both myself and my lawyer claimed my Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate myself, particularly falsely. the judge overruled us and threatened to hold both of us in jail for contempt of court if I failed to give a "yes" or "no" answer.

        I say such a judge should have to face election, where the stories of his abuse of the law become widely, publicly known, where his reputation suffers rightfully the sort of damage he wrongfully inflicted on others for decades.

        The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges. ~ Anatole France

        by ActivistGuy on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 03:30:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  An election is one way (0+ / 0-)

          I'd settle for accountability in some fashion, not sure what method is ideal though.

          "Creationists make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night." - Isaac Asimov

          by tytalus on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 04:51:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Too many cases like this, way too many... (14+ / 0-)

    Seems to me there should be penalties in place for egregious dereliction of duty such as those described here on the part of the prosecution, police, etc.   Yeah, we all want the perps caught, tried and put away, but too often officials go for the easy target rather than the right target.  The way I see it if a prosecutor, judge or police official engages in deliberate actions that lead to the conviction of an innocent person that prosecutor, judge or police official should at the very least lose their job and pension, and certainly serve time in prison for perverting the very essence of the justice system.  Anything else is tantamount to condoning their offenses.   The infamous case of Cameron Todd Willingham leaps to mind....

    Well, it sure is a mess, ain’t it, Sheriff….
    Yep, and if it ain’t it’ll do ‘til the mess gets here.

    Liberal = We're all in this together
    Conservative = Every man for himself
    Who you gonna call?

  •  This was beautifully written. (11+ / 0-)

    Stories like this make my heart break and my blood boil.  Thanks for calling our attention to this.

    "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy

    by helpImdrowning on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 03:28:04 PM PDT

  •  Duty re: exculpatory evidence (11+ / 0-)

    In 1963, the US Supreme Court decided a case called Brady v. Maryland, which stands for the proposition that the prosecution has a duty to turn over to the defense evidence favorable to the accused.  (This is often incorrectly characterized as "exculpatory" evidence.  However, the holding refers to "favorable" evidence, which is a broader category.)

    In 1995, the US Supreme Court handed down a decision in a case called Kyles v. Whitley, a case out of Louisiana.  There the Court said that the prosecutor (and the prosecution team, including cops) had a Constitutional duty to seek and the aforementioned "favorable" evidence.

    Naturally, both decisions are widely ignored by prosecutors nationwide.  Indeed, a Deputy DA in Los Angeles County was disciplined for turning over such evidence when his boss had told him not to do so.

    •  Maybe DAs should no longer be elected (8+ / 0-)

      They demagogue to an emotional populace on their conviction rates:" Oh, look how tuff I am!".  Appointment might curb some of these abuses.  Of course, it's no cure-all, especially when the appointing Governor is someone like Rick Perry, and Governors might run on "Look at all the rough n' tuff DA's I've appointed!"  Perhaps appointment by the Governor from a list of names submitted by a board composed equally of Rs, Ds, and Is, with at least some of them being experts in criminal justice.

      "Valerie, why am I getting all these emails calling me a classless boor?"

      by TLS66 on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 05:13:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good question, to ponder another method (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sb, kyril

        From what I've read, some are appointed. It would be nice if state attorneys general could be trusted for that, but I wouldn't trust the one here in Arizona.

        "Creationists make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night." - Isaac Asimov

        by tytalus on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 06:52:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  America elects way too many people (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sb, Sue B, kyril

        it's problematic for a few reasons:

        * civil servants are supposed to be nonpartisan
        * judges are especially supposed to be nonpartisan
        * it's impossible to keep track of all the races on the ballot, so you just vote for the blue team or the red team downballot

        Seriously, I hang out on DailyKos and several other political websites from every part of the spectrum and I don't keep track of downballot races.

        •  Reason for elected officials (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sb, Sue B, kyril

          The received wisdom is that we vote for all these folks because our democracy demands it.  In reality, we elect so many folks because politicians need offices to hold, together with all the perks of the office.

        •  It's impossible to know how someone (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sb

          will perform in office.  Elections are an opportunity to remove the incompetent.
          That incompetents are being promoted for public office by a culture that promotes people "up and out," instead of just giving them the boot is another problem.
          Every time there's a down-turn in the economy, we have a wave of applicants for public office eager to be suckled at the public teat.  All of these "businessmen" need to be challenged as to their actual managerial expertise. Allowing bankruptcy to be considered SOP in commerce and industry is also a problem. Bankruptcy is a sign of broken trust.  People who can't be trusted should not be hired into a public office.

          People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

          by hannah on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 05:13:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  New Jersey's example (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sb, kyril

        In New Jersey, there are county prosecutors, as opposed to DAs.  The county prosecutor in each county is appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.  The prosecutor then serves a term of five years.  That makes sure that the prosecutors are not all driven from office when the administration in Trenton changes.

        The Attorney General in New Jersey is also appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.  He or she serves a four-year term concurrent with the appointing Governor's term.  The AG cannot be removed from office except by impeachment.  This is to prevent AGs who are politicians skewing the system and to protect the AG from being fired for not being sufficiently poliical.

  •  i wish these DA's were forced to spend as much (5+ / 0-)

    time in prison as the people they wrongfully put there.

    Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face - H. Dresden.

    by bnasley on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 04:52:56 PM PDT

  •  While I don't dispute that some... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, tytalus, sb, Sue B

    People commit crimes that are worthy of the death penalty, I am still against the death penalty for the simple fact that if a mistake is made it is easier to release someone from prison than to resurrect them from the dead.

    I am saddened to think of how many innocent people have been executed for no other reason than those involved in the process have no integrity.

    "There's room at the top they're telling you still...A working class hero is something to be If you want to be a hero well just follow me." Working Class Hero-John Lennon

    by p a roberson on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 04:58:47 PM PDT

    •  my own journey... (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WisVoter, p a roberson, sb, tytalus, Sue B, kyril
      While I don't dispute that some...

      ...People commit crimes that are worthy of the death penalty, I am still against the death penalty for the simple fact that if a mistake is made it is easier to release someone from prison than to resurrect them from the dead.

      I was not always against the death penalty -- I cried for days after the OKC bombing, thinking of all those children in that day care center, all those devastated parents, and all the other victims.  I didn't cry when McVeigh was executed.

      After 9/11, I lived in grief-filled days because of the walls of pictures of the missing, even though I didn't personally suffer any loss other than the collective losses we all felt.

      But I've seen the brutality this country is capable of -- individuals, institutions run amok -- and I cannot accept the responsibility for taking away anyone's life if there is another option. Not just because the person might be innocent, but because killing killers makes us ...killers.

      "The corrupt fear us. The honest support us. The heroic join us." Jesse LaGreca (MinistryOfTruth),Tuesday, October 4, 2011.

      by gfre on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 08:58:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  right wing america today (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, tytalus, sb, Sue B, kyril

    It's better to execute 1000 innocent men than to let one guilty man go.

    music- the universal language

    by daveygodigaditch on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 05:14:06 PM PDT

  •  The problem is the DA (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sb

    If folks were held accountable, as in charged with attempted murder/wrongful imprisonment for ignoring evidence and framing an innocent person, then less of this would happen.

    This is criminal negligence or willful defamation.  Unfortunately it is too common.

    "Money is like manure. You have to spread it around or it smells." J. Paul Getty

    by Celtic Pugilist on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 07:09:26 PM PDT

  •  I like to think that I have an open mind (0+ / 0-)

    But I draw the line at Anders Breivik the Norwegian.

    Like Charles Manson - I think he needs to be "put down yesterday" - just taken outside and shot against a wall and left to rot.

    Other than the extreme cases - I am in full agreement. I don't think drone strikes with Hellfire missiles are ethical either.

    Human beings shouldn't kill each other. Governments either.

    Dissatisfaction with democratic government is substantially due to economic globalization. We either rein in the corporations or Nation States will continue to diminish in stature, power and their ability to protect and serve their citizenry.

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 07:14:25 PM PDT

    •  I agree about the not killing each other (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sb

      But where does that leave your extreme cases? You must have some exceptions in mind. I know I do...but I think mine fall under necessity, not revulsion.

      "Creationists make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night." - Isaac Asimov

      by tytalus on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 08:17:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hitler nt (0+ / 0-)

        Dissatisfaction with democratic government is substantially due to economic globalization. We either rein in the corporations or Nation States will continue to diminish in stature, power and their ability to protect and serve their citizenry.

        by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:12:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's what it always seems to come down to (0+ / 0-)

          For some folks, there are some exceptions for whom anything is permitted. I know where that road ends. We all should; we walked it during the regime of Bush the younger.

          "Creationists make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night." - Isaac Asimov

          by tytalus on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 10:33:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  You would like people to think that Norway is so (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WisVoter, sb, Damnit Janet

      afraid of Mr. Breivik to reinstate the death penalty just to kill him.  Don't you think that that's an outcome he would support?

    •  Feh - execute him and you make a martyr (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sue B, Damnit Janet, Cassandra Waites

      Shove him in a cell and let him rot there, and eventually people will forget he exists. (Better yet, shove him in a loony bin - then whenever someone brings him up, you can say, "Oh, that madman?")

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 09:56:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I do like the rot and suffer punishment (0+ / 0-)

        No green vegetables though. Bread and water. And vitamin pills just so he lives long enough to suffer enough for one murder.

        I'm game with the 'Scriputres' as far as the Golden Rule goes and also that little Do not commit murder bit.

        Still having a problem with the drones though..

        Dissatisfaction with democratic government is substantially due to economic globalization. We either rein in the corporations or Nation States will continue to diminish in stature, power and their ability to protect and serve their citizenry.

        by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:17:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  he has said he wants to be acquitted OR hung (0+ / 0-)

      so that means we shouldn't do either, to me.  Not that acquittal is likely!

      He really does not want his actions to be declared those of a lunatic - so another reason for asking, was he sane?

      I don't myself see how he can be seen as sane, but am open to persuasion there.  I am sure however that I hope very much that he does not get what he wants - ever.

  •  Troy Davis was clearly guilty and it was wrong to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WisVoter, VTCC73

    execute him.  Why is it wrong to execute people guilty of heinous crimes?  Because it's completely unnecessary, it plays to the worst aspects of human nature, and it subtly implies that even behind bars we are still afraid of them.  No one needs to be afraid of these people, they're already off the streets.

    We need to make the point that the death penalty is wrong as a matter of principle, every time someone is executed.  Not that it's applied badly, or that the people might be innocent, because people on death row already have a gazillion appeals precisely to answer those charges.  And constantly telling Troy Davis that he would be executed in a few days, only to rescind the order for another appeal, over and over is truly cruel and inhuman treatment.

    The reason the death penalty is just wrong.

  •  The issue is the "absolute immunity" enjoyed (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sb, tytalus, SwedishJewfish

    by prosecutors.  Absolute immunity is a remnant of "sovereign immunity," that our agents of government are loath to give up. The "qualified immunity" of the law enforcers on the bottom of the ladder is a similar remnant.  
    The idea on which immunity rests is that when people are acting as agents they have no self-interest and, therefor, all mistakes are honest mistakes and not to be punished as intentional crimes. For other agents of government, malfeasance and even non-feasance have been found to be causes of action -- i.e. individuals can be held accountable.
    So far, prosecutors are "protected" by tradition.  It would take legislation to change that.  But, legislators, especially in Congress, have their own attachment to immunity from prosecution for anything they do in the performance of their duties.  There's a rational basis for it.  We don't want the public interest to be undermined by the individuals who serve us being unreasonably charged with crimes or malfeasance to keep them from doing their jobs -- as not so long ago Bill Clinton was and as many a conservative would like to do to Barack Obama now.

    Then too, our judicial system is somewhat fixated on form over justice.  Perhaps that's because so many of our laws are basically unjust and the severity of the crime is increasingly defined by the character of the victim, rather than the objective behavior of the perpetrator.  Why is killing a cop with a "lucky shot" from an imbecile fodder for a state killing (NH is planning on that), than the abuse and torture of dozens of children?  Is it because state's rights trump human rights?

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 05:05:32 AM PDT

  •  In CT, our governer just signed a law (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tytalus, Sue B

    ending the DP. It was very contentious because the trials for the Cheshire Home Invasion just finished. That case tested my resolve personally, as the surviving victim lives in my town and my sister was friends with one of the girls who was murdered. But I'm glad we finally ended this barbaric practice in my state.

    Thank you for writing about this-republished to "Abolish the Death Penalty"

    You must work-we all must work-for a world that is worthy of its children. - Pablo Casals. Please support TREE Climbers, our 501(c)(3) for victims and survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation.

    by SwedishJewfish on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 08:23:08 AM PDT

  •  Well, even the guilty ones are often victims. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tytalus

    The percentage of murderers who were horribly abused and/or neglected as children is mind-blowing. Not to exonerate them of responsibility for their crimes, but we know for a fact that poverty-related issues such as lead poisoning, poor education, poor nutrition and chaotic single parent households all correlate with future criminal behavior.

    Absolutely true factoid: it has been proven that nutritious fruits & veggies-heavy diets when served to prisoners reduce the rate of prison violence. The typical potatoes/macaroni/corn sweetener 'n ground beef diet causes higher rates of prison violence.
    So, naturally, our prisons serve the shitty McDiet to their inmates. Can't have prisoners eating green beans when we can feed 'em pink slime and soda pop. Even if the resulting violence costs way more.

    •  how do you feel (0+ / 0-)

      about life without parole.

      •  I would answer your question with another question (0+ / 0-)

        What is the purpose of incarceration?
        Punishment? Vengeance? Rehabilitation? Prevention of future crimes? It helps a lot to be clear about what we're trying to accomplish.

        In America we have fundamentally given up on rehabilitation, which is tragically ironic, seeing as how the entire prison-industrial complex mouths the language ("department of corrections") without meaning a word of it. Most states have done away with education, job training, really anything that might actually rehabilitate prisoners, in favor or warehousing them and then throwing them back onto the streets with zero job skills and a criminal record. "Good like finding work; see you back in about 4 months". We still pretend to care about rehabilitating prisoners; but we really don't mean it.

        Preventing future crimes? There's good evidence that incarcerating violent felons till age 50 or so drastically reduces their likelihood of committing future crimes; they're no longer 'competitive' (if that's the word) with younger felons. Yet we still incarcerate thousands of elderly, frail criminals...pretty much 'just because'. And in the U.S. system of justice, you can punish someone for a crime he/she has been convicted of, but you cannot incarcerate someone to prevent future crimes. (What's the charge? "Thought crime?") Yet we do it all the time; think of all the contortions our judges and prosecutors employ to keep sex offenders in jail long after their sentences have been served. Call it what you want, but it's not 'justice'.

        Vengeance? What are we, barbarians? Should we start hacking off fingers and toes? We call ourselves 'civilized'. That's hard to argue based on our approach to justice.

        Punishment? Now you're talking, I think. Unfortunately sentencing is grotesquely unjust here in America, where we routinely put people in prison for decades for victimless marijuana 'offenses', yet we let out guys who've murdered their wives in 6 years. (It's true; just happened in my neck of the woods. Affluent guy pushed his wife off a cliff in the family mini-van. Got a good lawyer and got charges reduced on appeal; now he's back at the country club, and his wife is...still dead.)

        To answer your original question, I think life without parole is appropriate punishment for especially heinous crimes, those which otherwise would have the bloodthirsty majority howling for execution, without the undeniable risk of executing innocent people. But it's arguably beyond stupid to keep frail 84 year old's in prison because they shot another teenager in a drug deal when they were 17. Especially when Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the folks who tortured people in the name of the United States still walk free.

  •  Ah, but remember. (0+ / 0-)

    Most people recently were okay with the DP even if we killed a few innocents along the way.

  •  G-d Bless you for this wonderful Diary. It breaks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe wobblie, tytalus

    my heart to know that we fight and fight this bad faith prosecutorial (I can't remember) Bull [c]hit.

    Fantastic news

    Tip, rec'd, shared, Tweet'd and Luv'd

    Thanks.

    PLEASE ☺ - Help Stop Mitt the Pitts Romney from Stealing ☻ the POTUS

    by laserhaas on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 12:27:33 PM PDT

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