So here’s an article, via the Wrongful Convictions Blog, by a Chicago cop taking on one of The Innocence Project’s first big wrongful conviction successes out of Chicago, back when George Ryan was governor.
The cop makes a good case that in this instance the wrongfully convicted Anthony Porter was in fact rightfully convicted because he actually killed the two people he was convicted of killing in the first place.
I guess we need a new phrase: “wrongful exoneration”. We’ll add that to the phrase “wrongful acquittal” that we also coined over here at Lawyers on Strike.
But let’s tone it down a bit here, shall we? Do you think you’ve got a lot of folks over-invested in these things?
Retired cops from all over the country came to the city to help the detectives prepare for the trial, for it was a common belief among the police that Porter was guilty and had gotten away with a double homicide.
Let’s assume for purposes of dicussion that Anthony Porter was wrongfully exonerated. The effort, including “retired cops from all over the country” to make him a poster child for the sins of the perfidious wrongful conviction industry is really nothing more than a desperate attempt to reassert dwindling dominance, and the same kind of distortion of reality that causes wrongful convictions – and for that matter wrongful exonerations – in the first place.
For months now I’ve been chronicling (see, e.g., here) a rash of court decisions out of the federal court system’s 7th circuit – that is, where Chicago and the Anthony Porter case are located – all dealing with wrongful convictions or wrongful prosecutions, in many cases admitted, where police and even prosecutors committed grotesque abuses of their power in order to obtain convictions of innocent people because that was easier and better for their ‘career’ than doing their job and doing the right thing. And the governor isn’t shaking the hands of these rightfully exonerated and the media isn’t writing stories about them and the cop-author of the linked article isn’t mentioning any of these cases along with the Anthony Porter matter because his purpose is polemical and not educational. It is partisan and not truthful. It is about reclaiming absolute hegemony over the criminal justice system for the cops because apparently near absolute hegemony isn’t enough for them, and “retired cops from all over the country” are onboard with the effort, which to me is sad.
There are hucksters who will try to capitalize on any trend, and I’m sure that they have appeared and will appear again in wrongful conviction cases. Using them to score rhetorical points is just more hucksterism.
There is no legitimate argument that we don’t have a serious wrongful conviction problem in the United States (CNN is doing a series just on wrongful death row convictions), there is no serious dispute that the police have had too much power for too long. As in any such state of affairs in any context the power gets abused, first by a few, and then by more than a few, and then by many until finally it is a normal part of the every day functioning of a police department.
Like the police department in Mount Morris, New York, circa 2004.
Even there, of course, not every cop enthusiastically goes along, and maybe some would join an effort to clean things up if they didn’t also feel that it would be ruinous to themselves and their families.
And here’s a reality that’s as much irony as it is true: the friend of the honest cop in Mount Morris and elsewhere is me, not some huckster cop-author pandering to a built in readership.
Maybe there’s a wrongful conviction ‘industry’; but it’s a tiny fraction of the size, power and scope of the
criminal justice system conviction industry (two can play at the game of using the term ‘industry’ as a pejorative). In either case honesty has to trump subservience to an agenda if we are to leave the world, or at least the criminal justice system, a better place than when we found it.