Today’s post is all about Innocence. Wrongful convictions challenge the integrity of the justice system and public’s confidence that justice can and will be served equally. Hawai`i is still one of the states that has no compensation for those wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, even though we have laws mandating compensation for crime victims. What is the message that this sends? We hold lawbreakers accountable for the harm they have caused; but the state is not liable for the harms they cause? Is this justice???
We start off with an article about prosecutor who admits that he was an arrogant coward in convicting an innocent man. If we want real justice, we need to hold prosecutors accountable as well.
30 Years on Death Row
In an incredible miscarriage of justice, a prosecutor admits his cowardice and indifference led to the wrongful murder conviction of a man sentenced to death
60 Minutes, Oct. 11, 2015, Bill Whitaker is the correspondent. Ira Rosen and Habiba Nosheen, producers.
I was arrogant, narcissistic, caught up in the culture of winning.
– Marty Stroud – Louisiana Prosecutor who Sent Glenn Ford to Death Row
It is so rare for a prosecutor to actually admit the “culture” of prosecution. This article also quotes a prosecutor from Caddo Parish, Louisiana saying that he doesn’t know why Mr.Stroud is apologizing because justice was served (because he was released after 30 years). How do we deal with that kind of arrogance and injustice that seems to be the culture prosecutors live in???
A Death Sentence in Mississippi: Do Prosecutors Care More About a Conviction Than Executing the Right Person?
Spencer Woodman, Oct. 5, 2015, Vice.com
Freeing the Innocent: DNA Testing’s First 25 Years
Daniel S. Medwed, Oct. 1, 2015, The Crime Report
“DNA testing has altered criminal justice. But what have we learned from the more than 300 documented DNA exonerations between 1989 and 2014? And what do we still need to know?
“These questions were at the heart of a conference last week at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston that attracted the nation’s leading scholars and advocates in the field, including Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld of the Innocence Project; Brandon Garrett of the University of Virginia; Richard Leo of the University of San Francisco; Alexandra Natapoff of Loyola Law School-Los Angeles; and Dan Simon of the University of Southern California.
“Deconstructing a quarter-century of DNA exonerations has given us a deep understanding about what went wrong originally in those cases. Those factors are now well-known: eyewitness misidentifications, false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, ineffective assistance of defense counsel, police and prosecutorial misconduct, and the use of jailhouse informants.
“These factors seldom appear alone in a wrongful conviction. More often than not, multiple errors surface in a single case.”
An Exoneree’s Story: ‘They Never Envisioned Making a Mistake’
Graham Kates, Oct. 5, 2015, The Crime Report
“Seventeen years after Rodney Roberts was first incarcerated for a kidnapping and rape he did not commit, he was exonerated and freed on March 14, 2014. Though sentenced to seven years incarceration, he was involuntarily committed for another 10 years by the State of New Jersey to a sex offender treatment facility, and the case he was convicted for remains unsolved.
“Roberts, now 47, is one of countless individuals who have been victimized by a criminal justice system that relies on plea deals struck between over-burdened public defenders and comparatively well-funded prosecutors. …”
In Honolulu, the prosecutors are housed in a fancy office building next to the state capitol. The public defenders are housed in an office in a strip mall above Sensually Yours miles from the capitol and courts in an office that looks like a bus station. (I was told that that is where they got the benches for their reception area.) To me, this is a pretty glaring example of “justice” in the land of aloha.
We still have plenty of work to do to improve the quality of justice in Hawai`i and elsewhere. Over-zealous prosecutors must be held accountable.