Is the Innocence Project anything more than a pain in the ass?
One of the dirty little secrets of those who sit on the far side of the courtroom from the jury is that the Innocence Project makes our efforts harder. You see, the idea that an innocent person has been wrongfully convicted is horrific to all good people, Justice Scalia excepted.
The good that comes of it is that the mechanisms giving rise to wrongful convictions are put under scrutiny, shown to all the world as junk in either their application or effectiveness. The bad is that it focuses public concern on the innocent, as if those are the only people entitled to our concern. The guilty are throwaways.
SHG has a point. A small one. Without debating the matter at length, we would agree that to any fair minded person almost no one should be a ‘throwaway’, such that we just, say, sentence them to death and that’s the end of it. At the same time, “…focusing public concern on the innocent…” does not come at the expense of concern for anyone else, unless the public concern is some sort of zero sum game. We don’t know why SHG would think that. We don’t know why anyone would.
We’ll say this, though, for SHG: he’s consistent on this point, at least in the larger sense, insisting that the CDL perspective is to defend them all, innocent or guilty. This, too, is not in the least problematic. Unless it becomes some kind of dogma with far reaching – and completely unnecessary – implications.
For example, does consideration of the government’s offer of leniency in the form of a plea bargain in any way depend upon the actual guilt or innocence of the defendant?
Meanwhile, Gamso writes another compelling piece about a death penalty case in Texas that’s conscience shocking by any sane measure; and yes, it involves a guy who has been in the Texas prisons since 1996 and appears not only to be innocent, but to have been framed by a cop.
That scenario certainly resonates around here.
Ordinarily Gamso agrees with SHG (and for that matter, Justice Scalia) in oft opining that innocence doesn’t matter. But with Gamso there’s a qualifier: “…until it does…”, you might say. For SHG, well, like we said he’s consistent on the point. It’s a dogma.