In September 2016, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology released a report calling for forensic science reform, however Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Justice Department would not be adopting the recommendations, and the National District Attorney’s association’s suggested that existing safeguards were adequate. Adam B. Shniderman of Texas Christian University discusses the issue here.
“There are thousands of innocent people in prison serving long sentences for crimes committed by others; that their convictions could have been avoided and the real perpetrators brought to justice; that many segments of our criminal justice system are broken and must be fixed; that untold millions of dollars could be saved by criminal justice reforms, not to mention the avoidance of human suffering; that mass incarceration is not working at any level; that the death penalty is unfairly used; that the use and possession of most drugs should be decriminalized, not legalized; and that most prisons for women should be closed.”
Full article at https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/01/02/john-grisham-on-the-state-of-criminal-justice.
Radley Balko writes:
“The fact that Beach confessed to killing Nees at the same time he falsely confessed to killing three other women should have been a sign that perhaps his confession was due more to coercion from his interrogators. (This is not uncommon.) That didn’t seem to faze then-District Attorney Mark Racicot, who proceeded to trial and won his conviction. Racicot would, of course, go on to become an immensely popular Montana governor as well as chairman of the Republican National Committee, and was initially President George W. Bush’s choice to be U.S. attorney general before withdrawing from consideration.”
“A Montana district court judge threw out Beach’s conviction, ordered a new trial and released Beach on bond while awaiting that trial. Incredibly, 18 months later the Montana Supreme Court reversed that ruling, reinstated Beach’s conviction and ordered him taken into custody. Beach voluntarily turned himself in, and was taken back to prison. (Incidentally, journalist John Adams pointed out at the time that two of the four judges who reinstated the conviction were appointed to the bench by . . . Mark Racicot. One of them worked for Racicot when he was the state attorney general, and Racicot endorsed her when she ran for a position on the state’s supreme court.)”
Systematic corruption of State Supreme courts is I think not limited to Montana. Reform is needed.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s penalty for intentionally misleading the defense?
Both prosecutors were ordered to be “publicly censured.” A man’s life was on the line, and all the prosecution’s conduct resulted in was a public reprimand. Compare that to the case of an Oklahoma defense attorney accused of suborning perjury.
After a witness was found to by lying when she said that a drug defendant was with her in Mexico on the day of a 2007 drug deal, attorney Mark Clayborne was accused of knowing the witness was lying and knowing she had altered the date on a video to make it appear that she and the defendant were together in Mexico on the date of the alleged offense.
Clayborne contested the witness’s statement that he told her to lie, saying he did not knowingly permit perjury. However, he was convicted of one count of perjury by subornation and one count of false preparation of exhibits as evidence. He was disbarred and criminally sentenced to six years in prison.
Read more at Huffington Post
Social media is exposing cases of wrongful conviction in the United States and elsewhere where the vast majority of intelligent people who have carefully examined the evidence have concluded innocence, where a court originally concluded guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case of Richard Glossip is an obvious example.
It’s clear that the problem is not with the general public but with the justice system, which has failed too often.
It’s about time politicians took some notice and initiated reform to:
(1) Reduce the rate of wrongful convictions.
(2) Identify unsafe convictions in a timely way, and release the wrongly convicted from prison.
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit granted qualified immunity to Lowell Thomas Johnson and Raymond Rawson, the two bite mark specialists whose testimony helped convict Robert Lee Stinson of raping and murdering an elderly Wisconsin woman in 1984. Stinson spent 23 years in prison before DNA testing exonerated him in 2009.
writes Radley Balko.
He goes on
It took more than three decades, but over the past several years, actual scientists have finally started testing the claims of bite mark analysts. And as we’ve pointed out on several occasions here at The Watch, those scientists are showing that bite mark analysis is a fraudulent field.
and also references the case of Ray Krone.
When will it ever end. I left a comment:
There is no end to the bogus evidence that is employed when the State embarks on a wrongful conviction.
Take a look at the Jodi Arias trial : the State changed theory with the sole purpose of contradicting Arias’ claim of self-defense. To accomplish this the Medical Examiner (Dr Horn who has a shady reputation) had to arbitrarily and implausibly suggest there was a “typographical error” in his own autopsy report.
There was no end to the false prosecution claims in the case, they ranged from the ridiculous to the hilarious.
The remedy is for courts to refuse to admit evidence which has no scientifically established basis.
Although Richard Glossip‘s appeal to the Supreme Court failed today, there are signs that the death penalty may in future be declared unconstitutional.
Justice Breyer wrote:
“In 1976, the Court thought that the constitutional infirmities in the death penalty could be healed; the Court in effect delegated significant responsibility to the States to develop procedures that would protect against those constitutional problems. Almost 40 years of studies, surveys, and experience strongly indicate, however, that this effort has failed. Today’s administration of the death penalty involves three fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose. Perhaps as a result, (4) most places within the United States have abandoned its use.”
He goes on to give an excellent analysis of the many problems with the death penalty, including the statement:
“In light of these and other factors, researchers estimate that about 4% of those sentenced to death are actually innocent.”
“For the reasons I have set forth in this opinion, I believe it highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment. At the very least, the Court should call for full briefing on the basic question.”
I agree. It’s time to end the death penalty once and for all. It is both cruel and unusual punishment.
See here for some points in response to Justice Scalia.
More reaction at DPIC.
The End of the Death Penalty? By Robert J. Smith, Slate.com, July 2015
The Intercept Article by Liliana Segura.
Just 1% of counties account for 44% of the death sentences since 1976, and popular support has declined 20% from peak.
Nationally death sentences have declined from around 300 per year in the 1990s to under 100 since 2010.
See The Death Penalty Becomes Rare , The Atlantic, April 21, 2015 for details.
Good summary of the recent hearing in this featured case.
The system can be so cruel to the innocent.
First, the innocent are told to plead guilty.. or they may be executed or receive a heavier sentence.
Then, they are told to show remorse for something they didn’t do.. or they will be executed.
Then, if they are not executed, they are told to show remorse.. or they cannot be paroled.
They are tortured three times over. It is cruel.
See also Inspiration and comment and Innocent prisoner’s dilemma.