The American “Injustice System” is largely unconcerned if it wrongly sacrifices an innocent citizen on the “Altar of Justice”. TRUTH, which is the heart of justice is a relatively minor consideration in the American Justice system.
Ten Missourians were wrongly convicted of sex crimes before the Innocence Project utilized DNA from their cases to prove their innocence. In four of these cases DNA established who the actual criminal in those particular cases were after these wrongly convicted citizens were freed from prison.
On average these ten Missourians spent 17.9 years in prison before they were exonerated. Eight were Black men, one Hispanic and one White man make up the Missouri DNA exoneration according to the Innocence Project.
In one Missouri case, Armand Villasana’s accuser claimed she was raped by a Hispanic male. The police showed her a line-up of five white men and one Hispanic man. And as the sole Hispanic in the line-up this accuser claimed Villasana raped her. Villasana was convicted at trial despite being fifty pounds lighter and several inches shorter than her initial description of her “alleged” rapist. After conviction one of Missouri’s premier criminal defense attorneys Shawn Askinosie entered this case and discovered that untested DNA evidence (semen) was at the Highway Patrol Crime Lab. This DNA exonerated Villasana as the rapist.
Several years later this DNA identified the accuser’s lover, then in prison, and revealed that the rape accusation against Villasana was meant to cover-up an affair between her and her paramour.
The type of “Best Practice” reforms proposed by the “Integrity of Justice” Act would make the criminal justice system far more trustworthy but these reforms have been opposed by prosecutors and law enforcement bureaucrats opposed to independent oversight procedures in the arrest and prosecution of citizens.
Across the nation similar acts of injustice have been documented time and time again. According to the National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan, 1,569 men and women in the United States, most of them African American, have been completely exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sent to prison. The number of people exonerated for wrongful convictions actually broke a record high in 2014 with 125 exonerations, including six people who were actually on death row awaiting execution.
Less than every three days in our country, some man or woman is released back into society after spending a tragic portion of their life behind bars for a crime they never committed. Few injustices can compare to the horror of spending one hour in prison for something you didn’t do.
Ricky Jackson of Ohio spent 341,640 hours, or 39 years, behind bars before he was exonerated. Just a teenager when he was convicted, he was nearly a senior citizen when he was released.
Jonathan Fleming was serving the 25th year of a 25-year sentence when he was finally exonerated after a wrongful conviction.
Glenn Ford, on death row for 30 years in Louisiana, was 64 years old when he was released and was exonerated. Stricken with lung cancer, he was only expected to live a few more months.
One study determined that nearly 10,000 people are likely to be wrongfully convicted for serious crimes annually. Another study estimates that as many as 340 people are likely to have been executed in the United States before they were properly exonerated.
These are a travesties.
But the conversation should not end at our conclusion that these wrongful convictions are a travesty. It appears, though, that an entire section of America refuses to believe that police or prosecutors can ever do any wrong at all. Except they do. Often.
Detective Louis Scarcella of the NYPD is accused of framing suspects, forcing fake confessions, and using the same single eyewitness for multiple murders. Many men who were wrongfully convicted under his watch have recently been exonerated and 50 of his cases are under review.
Chicago has now been called the “false confession capital” as more and more details are uncovered on how the city’s police officers are torturing men and women to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. They were so good at it, in fact, that Detective Richard Zuley was brought from Chicago to Guantanamo Bay to directly oversee one of the most brutal torturing operation in modern history.
The prosecutor of Glenn Ford, shipped off to death row at Angola State Prison in Louisiana in 1984, now openly admits that he was “sick … arrogant, judgemental, narcissistic and very full of myself” when he sought the wrongful conviction of Ford, who spent 30 years of his life in one of the most brutal prisons in the world.
Four police officers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were just caught sending texts to one another about “killing nigg*rs” and giving them the “early death penalty.”
Our justice system is substantially broken. This brokenness, though, must not be understood in some abstract way. It’s broken because the people leading it are often wrongly influenced by race with a malice that undermines the spirit of justice.
Fixing this broken system requires a political will rarely demonstrated these days.
A few states have enacted most of the “Best Practice” reforms proposed by the Integrity of Justice Act and Missouri has partially implemented a felony interview recording requirement and an incomplete jury instruction on eyewitness identifications that partially address two of the main causes by which innocent citizens are wrongly convicted.
Only Bernie Sanders appears to be addressing the problems of the justice system in any meaningful way and the political reform is necessary for criminal justice reform