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View Full Version : Charges, convictions ... wrongfully imprisoned ...



brad9798
05-01-2012, 08:38 AM
This I found rather disturbing ... not well-written ... and missing key bits of information as to WHY this man was convicted, but disturbing nonetheless.

Colorado Man Set Free (http://news.yahoo.com/wrongly-accused-colorado-man-set-free-16-years-000543186.html)


This brings numerous things to my mind ... first and foremost:

1- Should prosecutors be elected? And they typically are based on conviction rates (this is a double-edge sword, and we can go into this if folks would like to)

2- Should judges be elected? Again, double-edged ...

3- Are juries truly reliable? Nah ...

4- When there are facts that prove someone did NOT commit a crime, why in the HELL does it take years or decades before exoneration? (this is the part that really pi$$es me off).

5- For folks wrongfully imprisoned, there OUGHT to be more significant backlash ... forget money ... DA's/ADA's should be tracked for this sort of conviction. As should judges ...

One of my best buds is in fairly high ranking cop ... another is FBI ... but like I tell them- NEVER trust a cop/agent. :(

I am sounding pretty far left this morning, eh? ;)

Phillip Allen
05-01-2012, 08:50 AM
This sort of thing always distresses me. How do we pay them back? For one thing they should never have financial worries again but that's just a drop in the bucket to what they are owed. If anyone in the prosecution is found to have knowingly helped to convict an innocent person, they should serve that wrongfully convicted personís sentence in biblical proportion.

Mrleft8
05-01-2012, 09:01 AM
I am sounding pretty far left this morning, eh? ;)

No. You're sounding like a person who's had experience, and thought about the subject from more than one viewpoint.
I have lots of cop friends. I have friends who are lawyers, and I have friends and relatives in the judiciary. They all agree that most cops can't be trusted most of the time. They all agree that most lawyers will do pretty much anything to get their client off most of the time.
They all agree that most judges are just people who are bored to death of their jobs most of the time.
And they all agree that the US court system is not designed for innocent people wrongly accused.

Ian McColgin
05-01-2012, 09:09 AM
Prosecutors are elected at state and local levels, though not federal. It's got its plusses and minuses.

In some places at some levels judges are elected. I am not sure whether election with terms and the need for re-election or appointment with life (or at least long term) tenure produces better courts per se, but I am sure that elected judges become part of the well-oiled political machine that makes for single party power at a local level. So I favor lifetime appointed judges. On balance and with changes in whose in office, it balances out better.

Our court system is built on an understanding of human "certainty" versus epistemological reality. It is a form of combat, but the point is that the rules of behavior and evidence and all the gamesmanship tend to push the jury towards a more formal sense of what they are doing than ordinary people take. Certainly they take the work more seriously than, to pick an example, commentators here take it. So, even when all is done "correctly", some innocent will be convicted. We should have a better system of using "actual innosence" as a ground for appeal, but on the whole we do fairly well at convicting the right folk with a small social cost that we fail to convict some bad people and a smaller social (though to the individual enormous) cost of convicting some innocents.

Besides our failure to provide good appelate avenues for actual innosence, our major failure is that we do not punish prosecutorial misconduct adequately. I'd like to see two consequences of a misconduct finding: Absolute release, no retrial etc., of the convicted; and criminal charges against any levels involved in the misconduct from police to investigators to prosecutors. Slow them up a little.

As an aside, we need more transparancy and neutrality in the crime labs. Some here will remember the huge FBI fingerprint scandal of about 20 years ago. Some sharp witted defense investigator happened to be looking at fingerprint evidence under a microscope and saw that it was xerox powder, not fingerprint powder. Turned out to be a habit that led to a bunch of federal convictions being overturned. Unfortunatly, while we need far greater resourses aimed at processing DNA evidence, that's something that's even harder to check for fraud than finger print evidence. Add to that that a good deal of "forensic science" is more codified myth, including an awful lot of the firearms lore that convicts all over.

Outside the basics of a trial system, our drug laws, especially coupled with private profit prisons, have led to a flat out racist system of incarceration that really is by international standards a crime against humanity. It's an amorphous crime since unlike the occasional convicted dictator, no one person or party is doing it. Many of these inter-related justice issues are severable for reform purposes. We needed solve everything to make some things a little better.

brad9798
05-01-2012, 09:36 AM
WELL said, lefty ... and Ian ... and I agree with Phillip, as well.

brad9798
05-01-2012, 09:37 AM
Oh heck, and I forgot that I know two judges in my county ... one is leaving the bench as we speak ...

WHY? She has lost faith, and has admitted that the legal system is no longer about right and wrong ...

THAT is a very loud statement to me. And sad. :(

Ian McColgin
05-01-2012, 10:28 AM
" . . . admitted that the legal system is no longer about right and wrong ..." [#6]

What century did this naif awaken from? You can go back to our Founders' legal philosophizing and the great attorneys and jurists since to see that those who understand our system were not dewey-eyed fools. For example, a defense attorney defends, offers the best defense. It more than does not matter if the guy is guilty or not - the system demands best defense consistent with the rules that prevent attorneys from knowingly causing someone to lie.

It's always been true that some defenders and some prosecutors get so into their win/loss score that they lose all sense of porportion as to their role in what's really a dialectic. It's also true that some judges really can't stand the constraints of judging rather than advocating and get legal burn-out. The point is our legal system has always had the same turn towards cynicism, really requirement for clear-eyed cynicism, that is coupled with a necessity to make a faith in the process actual by truely and vigorously making the process happen.

It's supposed to hurt a little. Capeable attorneys and jurists get used to living that way, just as true lovers get used to the hurt and glory of love. Part of being an adult.

David W Pratt
05-01-2012, 11:04 AM
What has long puzzled me is why the Police are so unwilling to admit an arrest is in error, and prosecutors the same. If you have the wrong guy, the right guy is still out there.
The Central Park Jogger convictions come to mind.

Ian McColgin
05-01-2012, 11:22 AM
Same thing that leads some researchers to falsify results: The desire to be seen as right trumps the desire to be right.

brad9798
05-01-2012, 11:27 AM
Not for the GOOD guys, Ian.

And THAT is exactly what is troubling me ... :(

Bobcat
05-01-2012, 11:33 AM
You can't judge a human system based on its mistakes. It's a human system and it will make mistakes. That's one reason why the strong bias is in favor of the accused, not the state: the presumption of innocence, the standard of proof being beyond a reasonable doubt, the right not to testify, and finally that any accused is entitled to a competent defense lawyer at public expense if needed.

It's not always a system that works, but I am hard pressed to find another model that might work better. There are clearly areas that need work, but abandoning the system is not the answer.

Ian McColgin
05-01-2012, 11:40 AM
Any human system will make mistakes. With a criminal justice system the best we can hope for is that the mistake of liberating the guilty will be greatly more probable than the mistake of incarcerating the innocent; that redress for the innocent will be practical; and that prosecutorial misconduct will be very severely treated.

brad9798
05-01-2012, 11:44 AM
I would agree Bobcat ... as long as you or ME is not wrongfully incarcerated ... THEN, it takes on a whole new meaning, right?????

Mrleft8
05-01-2012, 11:50 AM
I think that it's likely that only a person who has been falsely accused, incarcerated, and had to fight to prove their innocence in court can understand that distinction, Brad.

brad9798
05-01-2012, 12:31 PM
In theory, yes, lefty ... but there are many others that lose sleep over the falsely accused/incarcerated ...

Bobcat
05-01-2012, 12:34 PM
I would agree Bobcat ... as long as you or ME is not wrongfully incarcerated ... THEN, it takes on a whole new meaning, right?????

Of course. If the system screws you because it will make mistakes, well, then, you're screwed.

leikec
05-01-2012, 12:51 PM
There are also people who seem to have nine lives within the justice system, and avoid serving time (or who serve minimal time), even when they break the law, or do business unethically.

Jeff C

brad9798
05-01-2012, 01:10 PM
leikec is OBVIOUSLY a COP ... thus, cannot be trusted!!!


:(

Ian McColgin
05-01-2012, 01:22 PM
Yes, there are - and should be - many more guilty getting off than innocent condemned. The threat of punishment has not been shown to be a clear deterrent to crime but for the social balance, to fulfill the social compact, we demand some measure of assurance that the guilty will be punished, so far a consistent with our sense of civil liberties and civil rights. The system cannot demand such stringent proofs that no one is ever convicted. That value must be balanced to our elementary sense of justice that the innocent be spared. All societies get that far. Different societies have differing standards as to how many criminals it can tolorate getting off versus how many innocent people it can stand to punish.

SamSam
05-01-2012, 02:17 PM
I remember reading about a similar situation years ago, perhaps it was a documentary. Interviews with top lawyers and judges revealed that past a certain low level stage, such as a false confession, a "plea bargain", for certain a first court "conviction", that the whole concept of right/wrong, justice, guilt or innocence is very secondary to law itself, it's interpretations, processes and correct procedures. Very soon in the process, whether or not the defendant is the actual perpetrator of a crime is irrelevant, what is paramount is that he was prosecuted according to law.

leikec
05-01-2012, 05:08 PM
leikec is OBVIOUSLY a COP ... thus, cannot be trusted!!!


:(


:D:D:D


Jeff C

brad9798
05-01-2012, 05:25 PM
AGREED SamSam ...

And Jeff C- :D

leikec
05-01-2012, 05:32 PM
I remember reading about a similar situation years ago, perhaps it was a documentary. Interviews with top lawyers and judges revealed that past a certain low level stage, such as a false confession, a "plea bargain", for certain a first court "conviction", that the whole concept of right/wrong, justice, guilt or innocence is very secondary to law itself, it's interpretations, processes and correct procedures. Very soon in the process, whether or not the defendant is the actual perpetrator of a crime is irrelevant, what is paramount is that he was prosecuted according to law.

Fast food justice, and the system moves in that direction more every day.

Jeff C

KABAR2
05-01-2012, 05:51 PM
one of the problems with the system is that DA's are in politics and if a DA aspires to higher office
he needs to have a high sucess rate of convictions this way when it comes time to look at other political
positions he can run on being tough on crime..... so the higher the body count the better.... that is why
they don't admit mistakes.....

Another problem is Juries, they are not instructed properly so if you have one juror who thinks the defendant
is innocent he or she may be bullied into agreeing with the rest of the jury thinking they can talk to the judge after the fact and make things right.... it doesn't work that way...... whatever the verdict is it stands....

brad9798
05-01-2012, 05:56 PM
KABAR2-

THIS is EXACTLY why DA's are typically worthless POS's ... most of them should be in prison ...

Bobcat
05-01-2012, 06:32 PM
You guys are missing the point on conviction rates. Those that want a great win rate never take questionable cases to trial; they deal those away or never file charges. They pick only the dead bang winners to take to the court room. There are enough of them that they get their great win rate that way. They don't manufacture evidence or engage in misconduct at trial; they only take the easy ones before a jury.

skuthorp
05-01-2012, 06:52 PM
There was a US Law Lecturer who had his students look a death row cases and found that so many of the convictions were "unsafe" that at least some states suspended the death penalty. I don't know what has happened to that project, but I imagine that the same circumstances exist in lower rank criminal trials and convictions as well.

brad9798
05-01-2012, 08:10 PM
BOBCAT- you are TERRIBLY misinformed ...

Just because they do not take them to trial does NOT mean that they do not plea something ...

PLEA BARGAINS are the same as TRIAL convictions!!!!

To wit: I get a ticket for driving 80 in a 50mph zone ... I hire a lawyer ... I get a slap on the wrist for loud muffler ... this is STILL A CONVICTION for the DA/ADA!!!

OUR legal system is run by wh*res ... and criminals ... sadly.

:(

Bobcat
05-01-2012, 11:42 PM
Brad, you are the one misinformed.

(I don't understand why most posts from you involve YELLING and name calling....)

A conviction is a finding by a judge or jury that the accused committed the crime. A conviction has a specific meaning in the legal world.

A plea gets the defendant to the same place, but it's not a conviction. A plea does result in a record.

My post addressed politically ambitious prosecutors creating a record of wins at trial. I was speaking of wins at trial. Prosecutors like to brag about the number of trials they have won.

You paint with a broad brush: I have been part of the legal system for close to thirty years, am I a whore or a criminal?

hokiefan
05-02-2012, 12:19 AM
one of the problems with the system is that DA's are in politics and if a DA aspires to higher office
he needs to have a high sucess rate of convictions this way when it comes time to look at other political
positions he can run on being tough on crime..... so the higher the body count the better.... that is why
they don't admit mistakes.....

Another problem is Juries, they are not instructed properly so if you have one juror who thinks the defendant
is innocent he or she may be bullied into agreeing with the rest of the jury thinking they can talk to the judge after the fact and make things right.... it doesn't work that way...... whatever the verdict is it stands....

The problem with juries is that they are ordinary people, with all the failings they bring. I was on a murder jury some years ago. The first fail was the old lady who said, "She's guilty as sin. We should vote now and be done with it." This was after the opening arguments, before ANY evidence was presented. Then there was the guy who fell asleep on the third day. Then on day 5 we get to deliberations. Ten minutes in this girl on one end of the table makes a major flirt with the guy at the other end. Its obvious he's not interested, but not before the lady beside me says, "Jeez people, get a room!" So we finally start going over the evidence presented and its obvious no one remembers ****. They would make some statement "as fact", I would refer to my 27 pages of notes and set them straight. Its like me and the guy selected as foreman were the only two paying attention.

Should I ever find myself in court I will waive my right to a jury trial and take my chances with a judge.

Cheers,

Bobby

Ian McColgin
05-02-2012, 06:14 AM
Sorry Bobcat, but a plea deal can lead to a conviction and penalty, including jail.

There is a process where some things are 'continued without a finding' for some agreed period of time. Stay out of trouble for the duration and you're out. That's what Zimmerman had gotten in the past after he tried to beat up a cop. Perhaps that's what you were thinking of.

The sort of deal that leads to an unimportant conviction often starts with the prosecutor tossing everything possible, really over-charging, by breaking the event into seperate crimes. A simple punch-up might turn into assault, assault with a deadly weapon (a shod foot), assault with attempt to kill (shouted "I'll kill you."), causing grievous bodily harm (seperate count for every broken bone), etc. But with a good attorney in the right circumstances it might plead down to something pled to with time served (a couple months awaiting trial when could not afford bail).

Or if you don't take the deal . . . a friend got popped on his third DUI, the other two being over 15 years ago for the more recent but changes in the law no longer let you start the count over again. In the run up there were missed appointments with the DA and the attorney was cocky so instead of taking a plea that would have cost his license for five years, some stiff probation, and going to the program, he decided to fight it. So the ticked off ADA tossed all the charges at him and he got 18 months jail, no license for a decade, and still has to take the program.

Whatever - if you plead guilty you have a conviction to whatever you pled to. If you plead nolo (or no contest on sufficient facts), you have a conviction on your record. All plea deals are for the purpose of avoiding a jury trial with the attendent time, cost and risk.

brad9798
05-02-2012, 07:40 AM
I use caps like some folks use bold ... for emphasis ... and I did not call you a name, bobcat ...

And thanks for your post Ian ... I knew I was correct!

B

Bobcat
05-02-2012, 08:21 AM
We are saying the same thing, but in different words. I will leave it at that.

Brad. when you make a blanket statement that the legal system is run by whores and criminals: you are name calling those of us that work in that system.

But I will leave it at that.

Paul Pless
05-02-2012, 08:42 AM
I would refer to my 27 pages of notes and set them straight.Any boat doodles???

Mrleft8
05-02-2012, 08:46 AM
The few times I've been on a jury, we were specifically instructed that note taking was not allowed, by the judges.

Bobcat
05-02-2012, 11:39 AM
The few times I've been on a jury, we were specifically instructed that note taking was not allowed, by the judges.

That has changed in a lot of places. In Washington, jurors can take notes and most of them do. In the past, we did have specific instructions NOT to take notes.

hokiefan
05-02-2012, 12:01 PM
The few times I've been on a jury, we were specifically instructed that note taking was not allowed, by the judges.

Each of us was handed a legal pad and a pen when we walked into the jury room. I don't think I could have kept timing facts straight without them. I definitely took the most copious notes. The foreman ended up with 10-12 pages IIRC. I would have liked to keep them, but that wasn't allowed.

Cheers,

Bobby

Bobcat
05-02-2012, 12:07 PM
Each of us was handed a legal pad and a pen when we walked into the jury room. I don't think I could have kept timing facts straight without them. I definitely took the most copious notes. The foreman ended up with 10-12 pages IIRC. I would have liked to keep them, but that wasn't allowed.

Cheers,

Bobby

In our state, the notes are collected each day --- you can't take them home. At the end of the trial, the bailiff collects them and then shreds them.

I like jurors taking notes.

brad9798
05-03-2012, 12:20 PM
Maybe not all involved are those things, Bobcat ... in fact, I DO know that. But there are a lot of less-than-ethical shenanigans ... you must be aware of that.