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John Edward Smith was 18 years old when he found himself wrongly accused - and later, wrong convicted - of a gang-related murder in Los Angeles. Today, Smith will taste freedom for the first time in his adult life. A Los Angeles judge has vacated his conviction, issuing an order that grants Smith his immediate release.

Smith's story is now one of triumph. It's also one of great sadness, as he's spent more than half of life in prison for a crime he did not commit. He will now face the difficult challenge of building a life on the outside without the benefit of education or the job experience an adult his age might have acquired.

Smith was convicted largely on the testimony of an eye-witness. That witness - a man named Landu Mvuemba - told police that he probably didn't have a good enough look at the crime to be a credible witness. Authorities still pressured him to testify and the result is history.

Mvuemba said police pointed to Smith, whom he had known in elementary school, and told him other witnesses had identified Smith as the shooter. Mvuemba said he also was shown a photo of his friend DeAnthony Williams, who died in the shooting.

"I felt a lot of pressure to go along with it," Mvuemba said

...

Mvuemba said he tried three times to tell authorities that he didn't see enough to testify, but his pleas were ignored.

"Mvuemba knew it was wrong to identify Mr. Smith as the man who shot him," according to the defense motion. "But when he saw his deceased friend's crying mother in the courtroom, he felt as if he had no other choice."

John Edward Smith is now free because of the faithful dedication of his grandmother - a woman who mortgaged her home to pay for his original defense - and because of the hard work of Innocence Matters, a California public interest firm.

This time, the hard work of lawyers played an important role in Smith's defense. That was not always the case, though. During the original trial, his defense was part of the problem.

O'Connor said Smith's trial was undermined by ineffective assistance of attorneys who failed to investigate the case properly at trial and on appeal.
This underscores a major national problem. It's one that often goes overlooked and unnoticed by the disinterested masses. Death penalty attorney and social justice advocate Bryan Stephenson once made the point in an eloquent and startling manner when he said:
The opposite of poverty is not wealth. Unfortunately, in too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.
Studies have shown a direct link between poverty and incarceration. Other studies have shown that for black men, education level is strongly correlated to the likelihood of incarceration. In 2008, roughly 35% of black men who dropped out of high school were incarcerated. From a sociological perspective, there are many explanations for this. Low income people have more incentive to commit certain property crimes. They also have less to lose in terms of social status and opportunity cost.

Another explanation lies with quality of representation for poor defendants. The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty laid out its argument strongly in 2008:

“Perhaps the most important factor in determining whether a defendant will receive the death penalty is the quality of the representation he or she is provided. Almost all defendants in capital cases cannot afford their own attorneys. In many cases, the appointed attorneys are overworked, underpaid, or lacking the trial experience required for death penalty cases. There have even been instances in which lawyers appointed to a death case were so inexperienced that they were completely unprepared for the sentencing phase of the trial. Other appointed attorneys have slept through parts of the trial, or arrived at the court under the influence of alcohol.”
The problem is most evident in those capital cases where the death penalty is on the table. Luckily for John Edward Smith, California prosecutors did not decide to end his life for this crime he didn't commit. Still, underfunding for public defenders and poorly organized public defense systems contribute to the justice problem for the poor.

In eighteen death penalty states, there exists no statewide public defense initiative. In many of those states, the court-appointed public defenders are given overwhelming case loads, increasing the incentive for attorneys to advise their low-leverage and low-information clients to plead guilty. The problem extends to salary incentives for new public defenders. Both in private and public practice, salaries for these public servants are so low that only a very small percentage of qualified minds will dare take the position. In many cases, first-year public defenders can expect to make less than a fourth of what their big firm counterparts make.

The problem was typified in one Georgia county, where public defense cases were assigned according to a low-bid contract system. There, over a five year stretch, one low-bid attorney tried only fourteen cases, entered only seven motions, and plead guilty a grand total of 262 times.

Harris County, the home of four-million person Houston, only recently added a public defender's office. This is a county where 13 men were executed between 2004 and 2011, yet the county did not establish a dedicated public defender's office until last year. The new Harris County office undoubtedly came in response to the disastrous system previous employed. In 2009, the Houston Chronicle noted the experience of overworked Houston criminal attorneys:

Lawyer Jerome Godinich, chastised by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals this year for repeatedly failing to meet federal death penalty deadlines, has represented an average of 360 felony clients per year in Harris County — a caseload that surpasses every other similar attorney.
The article goes on to note other examples, including one capital defense attorney who took multiple cases in a single day.

In Michigan, the problem is so evident that the Governor's office has taken notice. On Fridays in Ottawa County, the courts have what are known as "McJustice Days" - mornings when poor defendants without representation are arraigned quickly. The state's problems are evident in at least two other counties:

In Sault Ste. Marie, attorneys representing the poor have little time to prepare and wait in line to meet with their clients in the courthouse’s unisex bathroom.

In Wayne County, court-appointed attorneys haven’t received a raise in decades and say they often take on more cases than they can handle.

The governor's panel found that Michigan needs roughly $50 million per year in addition funding to even bring the state up to the national average. Even then, it could be argued, the state would attain a standard that leaves the poor with inadequate defense.

That same Michigan report notes a disturbing public spending trend. Of the ten states that spend the least per capita on indigent defense, nine are death penalty states. Coming in last is Mississippi, a state that spends just more than four dollars. The 2008 national average sat at $11.86.

John Edward Smith's story is a triumphant one for today. It shows the best of our justice system, as a number of parties came together to right a clear wrong. But it also exposes the ugly underbelly of that same system. In many parts of the country today, it is better to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent. That is a startling indictment in a country where the punishment in many cases is irreversible death.

As a person who currently works with a post-conviction innocence organization, I have seen the stories. The numbers can tell us a great deal, but it is difficult to understand the human toll until you read the hand-written letters from inmates who can barely spell their names. Whether guilty or truly innocent, these individuals tell stories of poor representation. They tell stories of defense attorneys who viewed them - and their lives - as nothing more than another item on a billet that was just too full that week. In many cases, these people are railroaded through the system, taking on punishments that would never happen to those of us who might be able to hire a skilled, underworked criminal attorney.

This is the untold tragedy in America. Even in many "success" stories, men like John Edward Smith are left to put together the pieces of their broken lives. Lives that have been stolen from them in an unjust system.

Originally posted to Coby DuBose on Criminal Injustice, Race, and Poverty on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 08:03 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Manifesto Initiative, Police Accountability Group, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What does a population do when every branch (28+ / 0-)

    of government is corrupt?

    This underscores a major national problem. It's one that often goes overlooked and unnoticed by the disinterested masses. Death penalty attorney and social justice advocate Bryan Stephenson once made the point in an eloquent and startling manner when he said:

        The opposite of poverty is not wealth. Unfortunately, in too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.

    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 08:13:32 AM PDT

    •  There's the question (22+ / 0-)

      Unfortunately it's systemic. In many places, these policies are intentional.

      And it's disgraceful. The old policy adage is that it's better to let 1,000 guilty men go free than to imprison one innocent man. For a society that claims to place such high value in life, we do very little to protect it in practice.

      •  Good point (8+ / 0-)

        One I'm still wrestling with myself, but your data on how little is spent defending the poor in court helps to demonstrate how our justice system doesn't live up to this ideal.

        “The other night I was lying in bed, looking up at the stars, and I wondered, 'Where the hell is my roof?” -- Steven Wright

        by tytalus on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 11:45:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Some jurisdictions (12+ / 0-)

          have laws that require public defenders to be paid exactly as much as district attorneys of the same level. This is the case in Dallas, where they are lumped into one classification (attorney-1, attorney-2, and so on).

          The problem, of course, is that this is only a small part of the issue. Many public defenders are overworked. District attorneys have the power to pick and choose which cases they take, depending upon their own workload. Public defenders' offices do not have that luxury. They just have to take what they get, and in many cases these servants make the best of the situation.

          The sad thing, of course, is that places like Dallas are the best examples of public defense, and even they don't really get it right. They are light years ahead of the states that simply throw the cases to any old slob that has a pair of black shoes and a degree from Mercer Law.

          One interesting thing to note is that the situation MIGHT be getting better. As law schools become more expensive, students are forced to take out more loans. The salaries at law firms are not exactly rising at the rate of these costs, so the value of the law firm dollar is going down each year.

          Congress passed the popular loan forgiveness program for people who work in public service, meaning that more and more good students will have a financial incentive to take public defense jobs in the future if the financial dynamics do not change.

          For a person like me, who will finish with roughly $200,000 in ugrad+law debt, the ten-year loan forgiveness, combined with income-based repayment, make public service jobs attractive financially. They are not as financially advantageous as big firm jobs, but the gap is closed a significant amount. If this continues, it will draw more capable people into public defense, helping the ability problem at least a little bit.

          •  Discovery costs money, (9+ / 0-)

            as do lab tests,

            expert witnesses...

            Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

            by Horace Boothroyd III on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 04:12:17 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Your country needs you Grizzard and (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ladybug53, 4Freedom, Tonedevil, Fiona West

            you will be serving all of us gallantly if you become a public defender. If we would honor the public defenders who protect our fellow country men and women from the injustice heaped upon some by poorly run or corrupt state courts-that would be a wonderful thing to celebrate.

            Thank you for bringing up this injustice with this diary.

          •  As a public defender in Calif (6+ / 0-)

            I can guarantee that no one can do this work for any length of time or turn in quality representation of the indigent accused if the main motivation is student loan forgiveness.  Not speaking to you, personally, Grizzard, because you may have already been interested in this work, plus I don't know you.   I'm just generally commenting about indigent defense.

            In Calif PDs and DAs are generally paid the same, with the Atty 1, 2 etc. designations you mention in Dallas.  I have seen amazing PDs from no-name schools and total dump trucks from Harvard. I do not believe one's law school pedigree predicts anything about one's ability to do this work.

            I often wish I had time to write about public defender work, but lol, I am way too busy doing it...often working seven days a week for weeks at a time.  Frankly, I love this work so much, I would probably do it for free!

            There are lots of good public defender blogs out there that give a real taste for the work, the workload, and what motivates us, or many of us.

            Really, people have NO IDEA what this work entails and how the cards are stacked.  Prosecutors have way too much power.

            Gotta go- bail motion to finish.

            •  I don't mean to say that loan forgiveness would be (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              4Freedom, i love san fran, Fiona West

              the main motivation.

              Only that it would make this sort of work a possibility for someone like myself who would want to do it.

              Without the loan forgiveness program, it would literally be impossible for someone with a $200k debt load to take this job (without some independent means), especially in a big city where cost of living would be high.

              And I agree with you that a lot of good attorneys come out of all sorts of schools. I just mean that generally speaking, the financial incentives are there for high-performing students (good grades in their law school, regardless of rank) to take the money rather than following their passions, especially when loan obligations are in play.

              Keep fighting the good fight.

          •  And while discussing this example of Dallas - (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            i love san fran, Fiona West

            - being a "good" example - we should mention that Dallas has the ignominious honor of having the largest number of innocent men's convictions, often after two decades or more, being reversed.

            And the reason?  Dallas preserved the evidence.  When DNA testing became possible, it became possible to determine if convicted "rapists" were connected to the DNA left at the scene.

            Again, Dallas is the good example.  They preserved the evidence for decades unlike many other jurisdictions in the nation.  

            What this shows is that the number of unjust convictions of innocent men (primarily men) has been extraordinarily high for many years.  

            Mistaken "eye witness IDs" (notoriously unreliable and this has been well known for over 30 years), prosecutorial misconduct (as in the diary case) and police lies and fabrication of evidence or pressure on witnesses are among the main causes behind innocent men being convicted.

            "The system" -- "the man" -- has been crooked for years and years and years.

            Horrible injustices have been done and primarily against people of color across the nation.

            "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

            by YucatanMan on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:20:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, I wrote a whole comment on Craig Watkins (0+ / 0-)

              the Dallas County DA.  It went poof into the orange ether, I guess.

              Watkins' office has helped overturn 25 bogus convictions, saving many poor wretches from wrongful death at the hands of the State of Texas.  He is a leader in the country and internationally in helping see justice done, rather than "putting bad guys behind bars", which as several have pointed out, is not the right metric of a DA's success or achievement in office.

              I also went off about our County Sheriff, Lupe Valdez, who cleaned up the corrupt practices and horrific conditions in the county jail after dccades of corruption by her predecessors.  It took over 4 years, but the county jail started passing state and federal inspections for the first time since 2003.

              Anyhoo, nice to see some recognition for Dallas County and trying to set things right after they were so wrong for so long.  Thanks, Yucatan Man - - so few in Texas, and fewer outside, will give us a bit of credit for some well-deserving, hard-working, doing-the-right-things public servants.  And WE HERE in Dallas COUnty elected them!

              Links:
              Lupe Valdez, Dallas County Sheriff (did I mention she's gay?): http://www.dallassheriffsoffice.com/

              Craig Watkins, Dallas County District Attorney:
              http://dallasda.co/...

              Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

              by tom 47 on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 02:41:05 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  I'm not sure "corrupt" is the right (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53

      word, so much as very poorly funded and overworked.  

      •  When it is this broken (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        indres, 4Freedom, YucatanMan

        corruption is the only way to describe it.

        Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

        by Horace Boothroyd III on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 04:34:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I guess it depends on what (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ladybug53, Fiona West

          you're talking about.  I've worked in a courthouse before and it's very hard for me to believe that PDs/ASAs and judges are categorically corrupt.  Obviously there are bad apples, but mostly it seems to me that mistakes are the results of massive caseloads/pressure to get certain outcomes/not nearly enough hands on deck.  It's nothing nefarious, just people trying to put out an inferno with a garden hose.  

          •  It's the system that's corrupt, more than the (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            YucatanMan, WisePiper

            individual people. Those in a position to see know that these inequities happen and that the cause is systemic, yet the system remains unchanged. Therefore, the inequities are known to be part of the system and left in place. That is a corrupt system.

            That said, I've seen a pretty consistent percentage of those on the prosecutors side of things that are very willing to cut corners and screw the innocent.

            Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

            by FarWestGirl on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:42:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Please see my comment just above about (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        i love san fran

        the huge number of wrongful convictions reversed in Dallas County, TX.

        The cause of the wrongful convictions almost always involved prosecutorial misconduct.

        In fact, Dallas County District Attorney's office had a manual on how to keep non-white people off of juries in order to increase conviction rates.  A freaking manual. And that's not all. The long-term good-ol'-boy DA (long gone now, thankfully) ran an iron fisted shop.... sending innocent men to prison.

        The system is vastly corrupt.  

        "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

        by YucatanMan on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:24:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That manual on keeping people of color off juries (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          YucatanMan, i love san fran

          -- aside from being grotesque and outrageous, shouldn't that be illegal?  Denial of equal protection, things like that?

          --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

          by Fiona West on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 09:17:29 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh yeah, it was definitely a breach of proper (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            i love san fran

            conduct and caused a huge scandal when it was revealed that not only the practice of excluding non-white people was common, but that there was an actual instruction manual on how to do it.

            That DA is now long gone and we have a decent one in his place.  But that's how the "justice" system operated in Dallas County (which has tons of minorities) and in many other jurisdictions in Texas and across the nation... only a couple decades ago.

            "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

            by YucatanMan on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 10:50:15 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  See my comment about Craig Watkins & Lupe Valdez (0+ / 0-)

              above.  Just wanted to put names to the (good) deeds.  

              While we're at it, the names to go with the (previous) bad deeds:
              Former Dallas County Sheriff Don Bowles (1984-2004) and Dallas County DAs Henry Wade (1951-1986) and Bill Hill (?-2006).

              Yes, THAT Wade (as in Roe v. ).

              Decades of "lock 'em up!" with very little justice.

              And we here in Dallas COunty elected Valdez and Watkins, both REALLY good Democrats.

              Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

              by tom 47 on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 02:52:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  If you're going to get everyone hooked on (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smrichmond, Lujane, FarWestGirl

    using money for all their transactions, then you have to make sure there's enough money for everyone to use.

    If you don't, then it's not unlike teaching everyone to read and then burning all the books.

    There's a reason why money and writing are both referred to as script.

    We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 08:34:39 AM PDT

  •  The game of justice (11+ / 0-)

    There's little incentive for justice.  For every poor person put in prison or sent to the gas chamber, there is value added to the prison industry and there is one fewer hard to employ citizen on the street.  This is the ultimate step in the dehumanization process that Mitt Romney in fact stated quite eloquently in his 47% speech.  The shaming of the poor was first fruitful on this end of the spectrum.  The average citizen no longer even need to comfort themselves with dreams of rehabilitation.  Now they expect indignity, humiliation, and they get it.  It is a game to the general public--why else have a slogan "three strikes and you're out"?  Three strikes and you're out, where time becomes meaningless.  Imagine losing the last five years, ten years, twenty years of your life.  The politician will never ask this, because their equation is that the poor do not have real lives to take--and the tacit agreement is that you and they are always on the other side of the game.  And when that treaty breaks, there is no more "you" to worry for.

  •  Is this just the evidence of the lack of ethics (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane, SoCalSal, indres

    in the US?   So you convict someone by getting someone to testify - in any other system that would be cheating and the cheaters humiliated and maybe charged as well.  

    •  This is part of it (6+ / 0-)

      There are certain ethical rules that might stop this from happening. For one, a prosecutor is required to turn over certain exculpatory evidence to defense counsel. There are other ethical considerations that come into play in this sort of situation, as well.

      The bigger problem, though, is the overwhelming pressure to get the "outcome" when the accused is brought up in front of court. By the time you get to trial, the state has poured tens of thousands of dollars of resources into the case - through prison time, judge time, prosecutor salary, public defense dollars. This means there is incentive to simply go forward with the prosecution, even when it might be against the truth.

      This problem is exacerbated when the defendant is poor and/or a minority. Simply put - in most cases, those sorts of defendants have no voice speaking for them and they do not have the political clout to pull the strings that you and I might pull.

      It's an ugly system from the top down, and a lot of it stems from the implied value we place on different lives. This is why Mr. Romney's comments about the 47%/thepoor were so disgusting to me. Those sorts of comments - and more importantly, judgements - make their way into the public consciousness and manifest in policy formation even in the criminal justice system. We just don't value the lives of the poor, and we are much more careful, procedurally at least, when the lives in the balance belong to people of means.

      Your point also underscores a lack of oversight. District attorneys are typically elected officials, so they answer to the voters in many states. When the electorate holds the same prejudices that drove the wrong in the first place, what incentive is there for a DA to rock the boat?

      This is not to say that all DAs are bad people. Many are good people with good motives. But there are bad apples. And we don't spend enough money or put enough thought into how we protect against those bad apples. Public defense is a huge part of that protection, but with overused and often under-qualified attorneys playing the role, we get no results. It's a serious indictment of our value system; attorneys protecting the interests of companies start out at $160k+bonus. Attorneys protecting the lives of human beings start out at $50k if they are lucky (much less in a lot of places).

  •  And conservatives wonder why... (6+ / 0-)

    he wasn't put to death years ago. Our tax dollars supported this man for the past 19 years. It's all about saving taxpayer dollars, right? They are the "sanctity of life" party.

    To the world you are one person. To one person, you are the world.

    by p a roberson on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 12:19:57 PM PDT

  •  Oops.. link to Michigan Report needs pdf warning (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    indres, FarWestGirl

    Excellent post, tipped and rec'd.

    I'm interested in more information about states' budgets for indigent defense:

    That same Michigan report notes a disturbing public spending trend. Of the ten states that spend the least per capita on indigent defense, nine are death penalty states. Coming in last is Mississippi, a state that spends just more than four dollars. The 2008 national average sat at $11.86.
    May John Edwards Smith's life from now forward be all that he hopes for. I assume that he will receive some monetary compensation from the state for the years he lost. Whatever the amount, it won't be enough.

    The sh*t those people [republicans] say just makes me weep for humanity! - Woody Harrelson

    by SoCalSal on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 01:06:12 PM PDT

    •  Is there compensation? I've read in the past that (0+ / 0-)

      there was not.  Maybe my info is outdated -- I hope so.  Or it may vary from state to state?

      --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

      by Fiona West on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 09:23:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's similar to the Franky Carillo case (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FarWestGirl

    The inspirational Franky Carrillo story and CA-Proposition 34

    Franky was falsely accused of murder when he was 16 and also spent 20 years in prison until 2011.

    He is now very active promoting Proposition 34.

    Perhaps they should talk to each other.  Franky knows what John is going through.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 01:07:32 PM PDT

  •  And the good news is (please verify) (3+ / 0-)

    I have heard a defense attorney, maybe from Innocence Project(?) say that due to TV shows like CSI, juries are much more demanding of forensic evidence than they were in the past, and that the job of just throwing an eye witness at them is no longer sufficient in many cases.
    Sorry, I am buried with work and couldn't do the research myself, but I though it was a good point to bring up.

    "You can die for Freedom, you just can't exercise it"

    by shmuelman on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 01:19:48 PM PDT

    •  Except in this case, the eyewitness (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      YucatanMan

      carried more weight because he was a surviving victim.

      The police just wanted to clear their murder board, it seems.

    •  That's probably true (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl

      Though I haven't seen anything definitive on it.

      It's important to remember that juries are different across the country, and judges are different, as well. Some jurisdictions move quicker than others.

      I do know that legitimate, forensic evidence is become a much bigger part of most cases. It's become much easier to process DNA evidence, and courts know that defendants will eventually use DNA evidence to their advantage at some point in the process (if it will help them). This leads to most prosecutors/defense counsel dealing with it up front.

      I think some progress has been made on the issue of eye witnesses. It is the job of the defense attorney to make those arguments, though, impeaching the credibility of individual eye witnesses and of eye witnesses generally, as well. Psychologists have established that eye witnesses are only marginally useful, and that the human mind, especially in high-stress situations, can often be fooled. This is primarily an issue with lineups, which are complete and utter nonsense as a means of convicting people.

      •  It's true, a defense lawyer I know says it's (0+ / 0-)

        definitely a factor these days and he's loving it. An educated populace, by any damned means, is essential to a functioning democracy.

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

        by FarWestGirl on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 07:32:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Far too few cases receive the kind of scrutiny (0+ / 0-)

      that CSI seems to portray as always happening.  The vast in-depth investigations shown on TV are simply not commonly done for every crime or trial.  Only the most notorious crimes have that kind of budget thrown at them.

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:28:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My point is that the jury's expectation has (0+ / 0-)

        been raised from watching tv shows that with extensive forensic investigation. I would be pretty hard pressed to convict someone of murder with a lack of physical evidence.

        "You can die for Freedom, you just can't exercise it"

        by shmuelman on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:38:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "He always hated his wife, everyone knew it." (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          i love san fran

          "Yes, that's right, and he told me he was going to kill her soon."

          "For the last three weeks, he's been poking around in the woods.  Said he needed to find an isolated spot."

          "He was acting all nervous and jumpy the day she disappeared."

          "He raised her insurance policy coverage by another $1 million just the week before she was found dead."

          Circumstantial evidence has convicted tons and tons of people and will continue to do so.

          You and I are not the average juror.  And most people, once a parade of human witnesses have gone through testifying that "he" wanted to kill his wife... well, they'll pretty much believe that he did it. Gun or no gun. Blood splatters or no blood splatters.

          I've seen jury behavior in the deliberating room a few times now and anyone who thinks it is all "12 Angry Men" would be shocked at some of the simplistic thinking and automatic, unthinking deference to authority which occurs there.  

          Not every juror watches the same shows. A lot of them just love playing video games or watching something on cable, regardless of the dozens of versions of CSI shows proliferating on network TV.

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 10:21:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  LA Commenter: But he musta been guilty a SOMETHIN! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JBL55, indres, FarWestGirl

    He was in a gang, see. That means he probably did OTHER  crimes all the time! So what's the big deal that he spent 19 years in prison for this one crime that he DIDN'T commit?

    Jeemus.

    The American Constitution, fella. Maybe you've heard of it? The jewel of 18th century political philosophy?

    Oh, never mind, you hopelessly ignorant, callous and vicious fu....

    .....nnelcake.

    •  My husband spent his last week of HS in detention. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      indres, FarWestGirl, YucatanMan

      It wasn't because of anything he did.  The principal told him it was because the principal was convinced he must have gotten away with lots of things his buddies got caught doing.

      He had to have gotten away with it, you see.  There could be no other way of looking at it.  It couldn't have been that he had nothing to do with it, wasn't there, etc.

      "The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another." ~ George Bancroft (1800-1891)

      by JBL55 on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 02:03:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Simply one more example of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JBL55, indres, Fiona West

    how freaking awful the death penalty is.  

    •  Exactly. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      indres, FarWestGirl, Fiona West

      The death penalty has no place in any society wishing to call itself "civilized," if only because of the imperfections of even the best justice system, let alone one as riddled with budgetary constraints and incompetence as ours.

      "The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another." ~ George Bancroft (1800-1891)

      by JBL55 on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 01:57:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One terrible and sad story (4+ / 0-)

    out of thousands of similar stories.  

  •  In my opinion, prosecutors and judges (6+ / 0-)

    should not be politicized: they should not be elected (the district attorney and trial judges, who are in some jurisdictions) nor should funding for police departments be dependent on arrests and conviction rates. Justice is not a contest to see who can put the most people in prison, and it's not politics, either.

    •  Agree whole heartedly with this (6+ / 0-)

      Texas is one place where judges and DAs are elected officials. This produces a highly politicized environment of justice, and it makes no sense in my estimation.

      Justice implicitly involves certain policy considerations. How much do we want to punish? Which offenders should we punish? How should we punish? These things require some moral and ethical judgements, as well as a consideration for the practical implications.

      Unfortunately the political process poisons these policy judgements far too often. I don't need a person determining public punishment based upon the whims of a largely uneducated and often prejudiced electorate.

  •  I just watched 12 Angry Men (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jan4insight

    A good movie for those who may serve on juries.

    www.tapestryofbronze.com

    by chloris creator on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 07:05:16 PM PDT

  •  Thank you. (0+ / 0-)

    Now it's the poor. Tomorrow we're all the poor if the Ayn Rand goof-balls have their way with us.

  •  I've experienced 22 different jails.......... (0+ / 0-)

    Once behind bars, you enter the twilight zone where shoplifters and pot smokers meet murderers and rapists. I hope he receives a huge monetary settlement.

    "HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE" , bumpersticker on a burning Subaru

    by tRueffert on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 05:30:17 AM PDT

  •  Poll on Proposition 34 to end CA death penalty (0+ / 0-)

    Per the below link, polls are currently at 42% yes, 45% no and 13% undecided.  Might this help the proposition get 9% of that 13%?

    http://abclocal.go.com/...

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