I follow developments in the justice system pretty closely. At least I think so. Certainly more than the average person, if only for the reason that it’s my bailiwick.
Too late to do anything about it now, at least until the legislature reconvenes – which ordinarily is not something to look forward to, by the way. Seems even the Innocence Project only got the memo a few weeks ago.
And so on. Wrongful convictions, doncha know.
The lobby for the wrongfully convicted isn’t very organized, or effective. Or funded. That is, if it even exists.
Take a read about it, though. This is a “reform” effort, and I don’t doubt that the proposals being considered – things like requiring full recording of suspect interviews and double-blind line-ups – would do some good. But it’s not really even scratching the surface. Not by a long shot.
At the risk of being accused of self absorption*, I have to nevertheless point out that if somebody wants to figure out why things too often go so horribly awry in the criminal justice system they need to make a full study of this case. It had nothing to do with faulty eyewitness identifications or false confessions. It wasn’t a “mistake”: no one even remotely familiar with the evidence could possibly have believed in the accused’s guilt. There is something much deeper – and much worse – that must account for it.
Close as I am to the whole thing, and knowledgeable about both the case and the relevant law as I am, I’m not sure even I could describe it too well to anyone, although I have this feeling I know what it is. But it’s more like seeing through a glass darkly, I guess.
You have to keep your sense of humor. In any case, consider this tidbit from Gary Craig’s article:
In response to questions, representatives of the District Attorney’s Association referred to a June 21 letter from Association President Cyrus Vance Jr., the New York County DA, to legislative leaders.
The letter notes that Cuomo’s proposals are the offspring of the New York State Justice Task Force, created by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman largely to tackle the issue of wrongful convictions. The District Attorney’s Association backed those proposals for double-blind photo arrays and videotaped interrogations, Vance wrote.
However, he noted, neither the task force nor the District Attorney’s Association agree with mandated double-blind physical lineups. There was police opposition to the proposal, especially in New York City, where physical lineups are commonplace.
“There was police opposition.” Well, there ya go. Somehow “Innocence Project Support” and “Police Opposition” don’t cancel each other out.
This is a lot closer to the nub of the problem.
Notice, too, that the relevant “officials” involved in the official conversation in officialdom about all this are….District Attorneys and their “association”, cops and their “association”; and judges and their “commissions”. The criminal defense bar is evidently too irrelevant to even be consulted, or for that matter even quoted in a news story about wrongful convictions.
This, too, is much closer to the nub of the problem.
Then of course you have the governor, yet another profile in political and moral courage:
“The governor would love to have this happen but he also wants all the interested stakeholders to come to an agreement,” he said.
See, if all the “interested stakeholders” come to an agreement the governor doesn’t have to risk anything by signing on.
And this is the official dithering that takes place in officialdom in the face of the otherwise distressing fact that New York is among the top three states in committing wrongful convictions, in a country where wrongful convictions are finally being recognized as a serious problem. I say “otherwise” distressing because although normal people do find it quite distressing apparently it isn’t distressing enough to legislators and political “leaders” to so much as lift a finger over it.
And this, I think, is getting really close to the nub of the problem.
If you have rulers who would rather preside over a state that frequently and willfully brands innocent people criminals, incarcerates them and figuratively – and sometimes literally – murders them, than make any effort to correct that behavior because it might cost them the tiniest pittance of political discomfort, then why would anyone be surprised that the state is number three in wrongful convictions? The only surprise is that the state is not number one.
But don’t worry, we’ll get there.
The wrongful convictions, the systemic corruption in Albany, the radiant and glittering barbarism and lawlessness of Wall Street – it’s all of a piece, isn’t it?
It might help – a little – to tape police interrogations and put a safeguard or two into police lineup procedures. But without some basic adherence to virtue among those holding the reins of power it will be just so much tinkering.
And that, I feel certain, is really really close to the nub of the problem
* We here at Lawyers on Strike are convinced of our own nearly perfect objectivity in this and many other matters, but understand that for others, and for various reasons, the idea of objectivity itself is an impossibility and thus all human conduct is at bottom explained only by self-interest (or other pathologies) and of course at that point any seemingly disproportionate conduct or emphasis by any person on anything within that person’s experience becomes susceptible of the accusation that such a person is “self-absorbed”.
Therefore, in this instance the “self-absorbed” accusation is essentially the product of circular reasoning, not to mention that if the denial of objective truth behind the accusation is inaccurate the accusation is also highly unjust and potentially destructive.
We make this point only for the sake of accuracy and truth, of course, which we are able to do because we do not regard such things as myths on the order of unicorns and fairies, though of course we also recognize, being objective, that for many others these are impossibilities and their consequent accusations are always, in the end, unanswerable.