Saturday, December 19, 2009

How Many Innocent People Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

Bartow, Florida (CNN) -- After more than three decades in prison, a Florida man was set free Thursday after a DNA test showed he did not kidnap and rape a 9-year-old boy in 1974.


It seems that nearly everyday we read about another inmate being released from prison because they are innocent (not just not guilty). This case is particularly egregious as Mr. Bain was the longest serving inmate who has been exonerated. 35 years is a very long time to endure the hazards and privations of prison, especially for an innocent man.

You can read about the cases of other innocent people at the Innocence Project or the Death Penalty Information Center.

It seems to me that we have become almost inured to the parade of innocent people. Where is the outrage? Where are the critical questions about the failure of the criminal justice system to accurately separate the guilty from the innocent? Where are the questions about police and prosecutorial misconduct, shoddy lab work, and unreliable witnesses? Why is the criminal justice system unwilling to admit that problems exist or embrace reform?

Here is another case involving shoddy lab work and prosecutorial misconduct.Unfortunately, these incidents are not atypical or isolated.

Because of the failures, because the system itself has not acknowledged its failures, and because demands for reform continue to be unheeded, I am rapidly loosing my confidence in the criminal justice system.  A recent national survey revealed that 44% of Americans had some confidence in the criminal justice system while 25% had very little. Clearly I am not alone in my perceptions.

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