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Old 06-05-2010, 07:06 PM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,668 posts, read 71,556,197 times
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Hundreds of thousands of Americans are now incarcerated, deprived of their liberty, while presumed innocent and awaiting trial, some for as long as a year. They will be forced to defend themselves, at their own cost, against allegations obtained at the public expense upon the arbitrary say-so of a prosecutor acting alone.

Is this the meaning of "Presumed Innocent", which is not even guaranteed by the Constitution, but only by tradition, and not judicially affirmed until the Coffin case in 1895?
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Old 06-05-2010, 07:54 PM
 
8,308 posts, read 8,583,412 times
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The problem is not with the procedural protections that exist within our system as much as it is a problem with John Q Public.

The vast number of people arrested and charged with crimes are guilty and the system works reasonably well in turns of getting them adjudicated and sent to prison. The problem is with the small percentage of people arrested by the police who are truly not guilty, or those who are not guilty of the particular crime they are charged with.

There are several weak links in the criminal justice system that result in innocent people being sent to prison. This is not an all inclusive list. It simply what I think the worst are:

1. Too many convictions are based on bad eyewitness testimony. We hear all the time about DNA evidence on t.v. and people are conditioned to think in those terms. However, the vast majority of cases are still based on less reliable forms of evidence such as eyewitness testimony. Many studies have been conducted that show this can be highly unreliable. Yet, many people who sit on a jury are reluctant to doubt an eyewitness who adamantly claims it was the Defendant who committed the crime. The odds are even worse if the crime is a sex crime and the witness is a child or a woman.

2. The public defender represents about 75% to 80% of all criminal defendants in most jurisdictions. The average staff attorney has a caseload of as many as 100 cases. Do you think anyone can do their best work when they have many clients to represent. Its fairly common for public defenders to ignore exculpatory evidence and try and talk every client into a guilty plea. Those who don't agree to plead guilty often received quick and half-hearted representation. To rectify this situation it would take more tax dollars to pay for more public defenders and support staff. The public does not want to pay more tax dollars for anything right now and criminal defendants are not exactly a "popular cause".

3. Perhaps, the worst problem today are juries. The average person coming to sit in the jury box does not really believe that "a person is innocent until proven guilty". He is more likely to think that the person wouldn't have been arrested if they hadn't been doing something wrong. All those crime shows on t.v. don't help. If you watch them in virtually every show, a guilty perpetrator of a heinous crime is brought to justice by courageous and hardworking police officers. I think these programs condition people to believe that all criminal defendants are guilty. I think there are some regional variations, but in some areas of the country it does not appear to take much to convict a defendant. In the south and in many rural areas, about all it takes is a witness who is willing to swear he heard the defendant "talking about the crime" once and the jury is ready to railroad the guy to the electric chair.

Presumption of innocence exists and every court will instruct juries on it. The problem is almost no one really believes or accepts it.
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Old 06-05-2010, 08:38 PM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,668 posts, read 71,556,197 times
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MarkG, your points are well taken, and applicable to a great majority of cases.

However, the problem is not in the violations, which are few in number, but in the impunity with which the violations can occur, which is limitless as long as the violations are tolerated.

This is why it is critical for the general public (the police of last resort) to unsubscribe to the false doctrine of presumption of innocence. We should recognize that the de-jure presumption of innocence is important to uphold as an objective, but de-facto, every suspect is treated as a criminal from the moment he becomes a person of interest. And that there should be constant vigilance to assure that every incident is critically reviewed with the objective that this dichotomy always be questioned, lest they be turned loose to run amok.

There is no penalty for violating the rule---no penalty is exacted in cases where an innocent person is presumed guilty, and deprived of liberty as though he were a criminal. He simply has his rightful, God-given liberty restored, without even an apology. There should be a penalty, if there is to be deterrent. For without deterrent, all, sooner or later, will be lost.

Last edited by jtur88; 06-05-2010 at 08:48 PM..
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Old 06-06-2010, 06:41 AM
 
Location: Sango, TN
24,889 posts, read 20,311,199 times
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I don't feel that it does today.

When going to court today, the officers word is taken over yours. If its a high profile case, often times the media will declare you guilty well before your trial, and regardless of what the jurors say, they either know about the case, or have preconceived notions of it.

And isn't it supposed to be a "jury of our peers"? Do you really want to be judged by a group of people who are so out of touch with society, that they don't watch even the evening news?

Just look at the trial of the Duke La Cross players. The media had them convicted within 3 days of the story breaking. Most people thought they were guilty, until their parents had enough money to buy a decent lawyer to prove their innocence
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Old 06-06-2010, 07:54 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,668 posts, read 71,556,197 times
Reputation: 35864
Quote:
Originally Posted by Memphis1979 View Post

Just look at the trial of the Duke La Cross players. The media had them convicted within 3 days of the story breaking. Most people thought they were guilty, until their parents had enough money to buy a decent lawyer to prove their innocence
I cannot remember a single case in my lifetime in which the media presumed the innocence of a person who was being prosecuted or the target of a manhunt. If I could think of one, it would probably stand out as the exception that proves the rule. Maybe Martha Stewart might be such an example, in which the media widely held that she was less guilty than the prosecution alleged. Perhaps Susan McDougall, and Mary LeTourneau, and Lorena Bobbitt---why is that the media seems only to consider the plausible innocence of women? Although Paris Hilton certainly did not get a pass, for driving with a dim license plate light, or whatever the charges were..
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Old 06-06-2010, 09:00 AM
 
3,566 posts, read 4,491,128 times
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I agree with almost everything that you said, Mark.

I also want to note that the repercussions from that lacrosse case probably made everyone step back about 10 feet. Our prosecutors are quite vocal that evidence is either something you have or something that you don't. The power hungry rogue prosecutor shows up on the screens, I don't know if that is the case all around. Having said that, this is an adversarial system. Which means that they can act is if you are guilty, talk as if you are guilty and make it sound as if the evidence is stacked against you to accept a lesser charge or agree to a deal. That doesn't mean that the person is guilty, it does mean that the state automatically wins. But that is after the fact. The cases here are handled within a certain time frame, and must be, by law.

It is really hard to discuss this, because criminal justice is handled differently state by state.Comparing two states is a nightmare-due to what age is one considered an adult. Further, with a decentralized state nobody is even on the same page. We don't think about that a lot, but it means police officers may not even use the same forms and may differ in how they handle certain arrests. In one town a person can be arrested for having allegedly committed a specific crime. The next town over another person could allegedly do the same crime but not be arrested at all.

One of our problems is the politics. Within the system there is a push and pull. We have started a new thing here, where certain arrests will mean that a person is given an ankle moniter and released. So, that person is not incarcerated (in a facility) until the court date. Why? Because it is supposed to be more economical. That is key. Because people jump up and down when they see the cost. Until something bad goes down and then people jump up and down again. it seems to me a lot of back and forth with this. Lots of politics. Another area where some of our elected officials really have no place being involved in because they are trying to get elected again.

I am in a whole different ball game, minors do not have the same sets of rights as adults. No bail and 18 is an adult for almost all crimes. Some crimes will automatically send someone at the age of 16 to be tried as an adult. The laws that were created defined jurisdiction. Or they may be waived to an adult court. That to me can be a rather long process. However, it is beneficial because your going to see court ordered psych evals that may work in favor of the kid. This is definitely limited by time.

In fact, from the time of arrest the clock is ticking for minors. They need to be arrested, processed and transported within 6 hours. The detention hearing must be held within so many hours, barring weekends and holidays, and the clock is still ticking. The entire time, there is the "least restrictive environment" and the courts have to prove that--by law.

Its just not as simplistic as it is usually made out to be.
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Old 06-06-2010, 09:19 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,668 posts, read 71,556,197 times
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While somewhat off-topic, the question of juvenile offenders falls outside the scope of guilt/innocence. In some states, for most or all "crimes", juveniles are merely adjudged to be 'responsible' and subject to sanctions accordingly. All outside public view and beyond the scrutiny of the governed.
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Old 06-06-2010, 09:22 AM
 
Location: Sango, TN
24,889 posts, read 20,311,199 times
Reputation: 8606
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pandamonium View Post
I agree with almost everything that you said, Mark.

I also want to note that the repercussions from that lacrosse case probably made everyone step back about 10 feet. Our prosecutors are quite vocal that evidence is either something you have or something that you don't. The power hungry rogue prosecutor shows up on the screens, I don't know if that is the case all around. Having said that, this is an adversarial system. Which means that they can act is if you are guilty, talk as if you are guilty and make it sound as if the evidence is stacked against you to accept a lesser charge or agree to a deal. That doesn't mean that the person is guilty, it does mean that the state automatically wins. But that is after the fact. The cases here are handled within a certain time frame, and must be, by law.

It is really hard to discuss this, because criminal justice is handled differently state by state.Comparing two states is a nightmare-due to what age is one considered an adult. Further, with a decentralized state nobody is even on the same page. We don't think about that a lot, but it means police officers may not even use the same forms and may differ in how they handle certain arrests. In one town a person can be arrested for having allegedly committed a specific crime. The next town over another person could allegedly do the same crime but not be arrested at all.

One of our problems is the politics. Within the system there is a push and pull. We have started a new thing here, where certain arrests will mean that a person is given an ankle moniter and released. So, that person is not incarcerated (in a facility) until the court date. Why? Because it is supposed to be more economical. That is key. Because people jump up and down when they see the cost. Until something bad goes down and then people jump up and down again. it seems to me a lot of back and forth with this. Lots of politics. Another area where some of our elected officials really have no place being involved in because they are trying to get elected again.

I am in a whole different ball game, minors do not have the same sets of rights as adults. No bail and 18 is an adult for almost all crimes. Some crimes will automatically send someone at the age of 16 to be tried as an adult. The laws that were created defined jurisdiction. Or they may be waived to an adult court. That to me can be a rather long process. However, it is beneficial because your going to see court ordered psych evals that may work in favor of the kid. This is definitely limited by time.

In fact, from the time of arrest the clock is ticking for minors. They need to be arrested, processed and transported within 6 hours. The detention hearing must be held within so many hours, barring weekends and holidays, and the clock is still ticking. The entire time, there is the "least restrictive environment" and the courts have to prove that--by law.

Its just not as simplistic as it is usually made out to be.
On top of all of this, you have elected judges, and county prosecutors.

What happens come election time? They want to appear "tough on crime" and they start being hard on even the smallest infraction. If the county sheriff is up for reelection, you can bet on more road blocks, more arrests, etc, etc.

I'm not sure how to best pick the law part of our states, counties, and cities, but the system we have right now are quite messed up.
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Old 06-06-2010, 09:28 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,668 posts, read 71,556,197 times
Reputation: 35864
Quote:
Originally Posted by Memphis1979 View Post
On top of all of this, you have elected judges, and county prosecutors.

What happens come election time? They want to appear "tough on crime" and they start being hard on even the smallest infraction. If the county sheriff is up for reelection, you can bet on more road blocks, more arrests, etc, etc.

I'm not sure how to best pick the law part of our states, counties, and cities, but the system we have right now are quite messed up.
Right. Public safety has ceased to be the motive behind law enforcement and prosecution. Thus, a "presumption of guilt" serves the ulterior purpose of Enforcement, Inc., and they will do whatever they can to advance that public perception. The Casablanca concept of rounding up the usual suspects, in general, means arrest the people that the public (i.e., the media) are likely to perceive as guilty, irrespective of criminal activity.

In many states, judges are appointed by the governor (probably on the advice of prosecutors), but subject to electoral recall. So, while they face electoral approval, they are rarely recalled. It would be interesting to explore the process of a governor deciding whom to appoint as a judge, and from whom he receives guidance.

Last edited by jtur88; 06-06-2010 at 09:46 AM..
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Old 06-06-2010, 09:32 AM
 
3,566 posts, read 4,491,128 times
Reputation: 1846
No. They are still innocent until proven guilty in a court. We call this adjudicated. It has to be a crime that would be still be a crime if they were adult. (except status offenses)They are still given a public defender if they cannot afford an attorney. They will still have a hearing that decides if there is probable cause that they commited a crime and if they are a flight risk and if they are a danger to themselves or to others with the addition of does the parent or guardian want this kid to come back home until the next court date. And I don't know of any state that can just pick up a kid and they be assumed to be responsible and held indefinitely at the whim of a court. Evidence.

Now, until they get waived, you can't view it. I guess you will have that.
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