So, in South Carolina this judge gives a speech to a group of prosecutors and tells them some interesting things, like that they’ve been getting away with too much for too long and the pendulum is swinging back and just in general criticizing unethical prosecutors much as we do here at Lawyers on Strike, although we were here first.
Bravo. The guy has guts. His name is Donald Beatty and he deserves a great deal of respect for his frankness.
Of course, read the article closely. They’re already on him. Abundant play is given his critics, whereas it is begrudgingly noted that the judge has “some support” – from criminal defense lawyers, that the newspaper reporting the story can be confident are despised by the vast majority of its readers.
It’s just a gut feeling, but my guess is that the judge is onto something. The constant parade of news stories about wrongful convictions, the innocent exonerated and so on has to make a pretty big impression on any judge with even the tiniest bit of intellectual or moral integrity. Because anyone familiar with the system knows that the system addresses and corrects only a small fraction of the meritorious cases. We’ve stacked the deck, the message is clear and the results follow naturally: most wrongfully convicted people can’t or won’t bother.
In any case, if a judge on a state’s highest court is talking this way openly, that means there have been discussions among a much larger group in private for some time. It would be fair to say that the judge’s remarks reflect the beliefs of some not insignificant group of jurists and that those beliefs are bubbling up into more explicit statements either in opinions or in these confabs that public officials seem constantly to be holding and attending, sequesters or no.
From where I sit it’s like a radio signal I can’t quite lock onto. I know it’s there and have an idea what it’s about but it’s not entertaining me in my car yet.
But if this is like other such sea changes, that might actually happen before too long.