Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Texas' Exonerated

In the November issue of Texas Monthly, the magazine interviews many of the 37 men who spent 525 years in prison who later turned out to be innocent of the crimes with which they were accused.

The stories are heartbreaking, frustrating, and stupefying. It is the tale of a penal system where success is measured in convictions, not sound investigating procedures. Naturally, law enforcement will counter that they get far more convictions right than they get wrong, but one is too many.

I don't have any solutions for "fixing" the system other than we should select our district attorneys on ABA-rendered merit rather than electing them. Same with judges. Electing judges is a disgrace when we're supposed to have an independent judiciary.


Brian said...

I agree about having DA's and Judges chosen through a merit based process, based on their record and qualifications....not based on how well they can run a political campaign.

If that's not bad enough...add to that... a system where defendants are shuttled through like Cattle... where there is less and less funding for Public Defenders... and where the few Public Defenders available are so overworked that they have developed a system of encouraging defendants to accept Plea bargains... to plead guilty, even when they may very well be innocent... all for the sake of avoiding a jury trial (and saving time).

The PBS Frontline Documentary "The Plea" (I think that's the name of it) really highlights this problem.
I believe you can still view this documentary online... it's a few years old now... but I recommend it.

This problem is especially troubling in States that have a poor record handling Death Penalty cases (like Texas).

That's why the work of the Innocence Project is important. I'm a believer in being tough on crime.... but i'm also against wrongful arrests & convictions...especially when the death penalty could be involved. Through DNA... dozens have been exonerated. Where would they be if outside groups weren't doing this kind of work?

I think the Justice Department should have a section dedicated to this kind of work... sort of like a legal ombudsman.

Anonymous said...

In smaller counties, we don't have anyone else qualified to run against the elected politicians. So the DA and the Judge and the Sheriff get to stay. Regardless of how well they campaign or their past.