While enjoying the Christmas season in the comfort of your home, take a minute
to say a prayer for the wrongfully convicted.
American prisons are full of wrongfully convicted persons. Many were
coerced into admitting to crimes they did not commit by prosecutors’ threats
to pile on more charges. Others were convicted by false testimony from criminals
bribed by prosecutors, who exchanged dropped charges or reduced sentences in
exchange for false testimony against defendants.
Not all the wrongfully convicted are poor. Some are wealthy and prominent
people targeted by corrupt prosecutors seeking a celebrity case in order to
boost their careers.
Until it happens to them or to a member of their family, Americans are clueless
to the corruption in the criminal justice (sic) system. Most prosecutors are
focused on their conviction rates, and judges are focused on clearing their
court dockets. Defendants are processed accordingly, not in terms of guilt or
"Law and order conservatives" wrongly believe that the justice (sic)
system is run by liberal judges who turn the criminals loose. In actual fact,
the system is so loaded against a defendant that very few people, including
the totally innocent, dare to risk a trial. Almost all (95–97%) felony
indictments are settled by a coerced plea. By withholding exculpatory evidence,
suborning perjury, fabricating evidence, and lying to jurors, prosecutors have
made the risks of a trial too great even for the innocent. Consequently, the
prosecutors’ cases and police evidence are almost never tested in court.
Defendants are simply intimidated into self-incrimination rather than risk the
terrors of trial.
According to Yale University law professor John Langbein, "The parallels
between the modern American plea bargaining system and the ancient system of
judicial torture are many and chilling." Just as the person on the rack
admitted to guilt in order to stop the pain, the present day defendant succumbs
to psychological torture and cops a plea, whether he is innocent or guilty,
in order to avoid ever more charges.
Michael Tonry, director of Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology,
reports that the US has the highest percentage of its population in prison than
any country on earth, including dictatorships, tyrannies, and China. The US
incarceration rate is up to 12 times higher than that of European countries.
Unless you believe Americans are 12 times more criminally inclined than Europeans,
why is one of every 80 Americans (not counting children and the elderly) locked
away from family, friends, career, and life? Part of the answer is the private
prison industry, which requires inmates to fuel the profits of investors. Another
part of the answer is career-driven prosecutors who want convictions at all
costs. Yet another is the failure of judges to rein-in prosecutorial abuses.
Another part of the answer is the hostility of Americans to defendants and indifference
to their innocence or guilt.
The US invasion of Iraq has brought the breakdown in American moral fiber to
the fore. The horrific tortures and abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, the public
justifications of torture by the president and vice president of the United
States, and the CIA kidnappings and torture of detainees in secret prisons put
the American "liberators" in the same camp as Saddam Hussein. It is
ironic that mistreatment of Iraqis is one of the justifications that Bush uses
for overthrowing Saddam.
In his book, "Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks
Its Own Laws," Judge Andrew P. Napolitano reports on cases of torture,
psychological abuse and frame-ups that he discovered as presiding judge.
I have reported a number of wrongful convictions. Anytime a new offense is
created, the word goes out to "produce convictions." Over a decade
ago William R. Strong, Jr., was made a victim of Virginia’s new wife rape
law. Strong discovered his wife in an affair with her boyfriend and was about
to serve her with divorce papers. She found out and struck first, accusing him
of rape. Mr. Strong has been trying to get a DNA test for many years, confident
that the semen in the perk test is that of the lover of his unfaithful wife,
but Virginia’s criminal justice (sic) system is unresponsive.
Another innocent victim of Virginia justice (sic) is Chris Gaynor. Gaynor took
his skateboard team to a competition. When one of the kids tried to buy drugs,
Gaynor threatened to tell his parents. To preempt Gaynor, the kid accused him
of sexual abuse. There was no evidence against Gaynor, and the entire team knew
the real story. However, Gaynor was framed by a corrupt prosecutor, reportedly
a man-hating lesbian, with the connivance of a corrupt judge, who intimidated
Gaynor’s young witnesses by jailing one of them without cause. Gaynor’s
innocence was of less importance to the criminal justice (sic) system than a
desire to increase convictions for child sex abuse.
In America, defendants are no longer innocent until they are proven
guilty. They are guilty the minute they are charged, and the system works to
process the guilty, not to determine innocence or guilt.
Americans in their ignorance and gullibility think that only the guilty
would enter a guilty plea. This is the uninformed opinion of the naïve
who have never experienced the terror and psychological torture of the US criminal
justice (sic) system.