Houston lawyer John Raley, who works with the Innocence Project • Discussing the imminent release of convicted murderer Michael Morton, who is expected to be released today after DNA evidence exonerated him from the crime of killing his wife in 1986. DNA evidence implicates a convicted felon who has also been tied to a similar 1988 murder. Morton, meanwhile, was convicted on circumstantial evidence and otherwise had no history of violence. Enjoy your freedom, Michael — they have these things called iPhones now, and they’re awesome. (thanks Michael Cote for the tip) source (via • follow)
Oh look. Another wrongfully convicted inmate. Surely giving a person a trial by jury of their peers a guaranteed appeal will root out the innocent, won’t it? *queue hysterical laughter*
It’s time we come to realize that the criminal justice system, while necessary, is also flawed. Even the burden of proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt does not keep the innocent free. Harsh sentencing regimes don’t deter crime. They merely punish the innocent.
Proponents of harsh sentences for heinous crimes might ask: shouldn’t we punish people in proportion to their evil acts if found guilty of an awful crime, such as murder?
Take it away, Justice Harlan:
[I]n a judicial proceeding in which there is a dispute about the facts of some earlier event, the fact-finder cannot acquire unassailably accurate knowledge of what happened. Instead, all the fact-finder can acquire is a belief of what probably happened. The intensity of this belief-the degree to which a fact-finder is convinced that a given act actually occurred-can, of course, vary. In this regard, a standard of proof represents an attempt to instruct the fact-finder concerning the degree of confidence our society thinks he should have in the correctness of factual conclusions for a particular type of adjudication.
…[but] In a lawsuit between two parties, a factual error can make a difference in one of two ways. First, it can result in a judgment in favor of the plaintiff when the true facts warrant a judgment for the defendant. The analogue in a criminal case would be the conviction of an innocent man. On the other hand, an erroneous factual determination can result in a judgment for the defendant when the true facts justify a judgment in plaintiff’s favor. The criminal analogue would be the acquittal of a guilty man.
In a criminal case, on the other hand, we do not view the social disutility of convicting an innocent man as equivalent to the disutility of acquitting someone who is guilty. As Mr. Justice Brennan wrote for the Court in Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513 , 525-526, 1341- 1342 (1958):
…[Our society has made] a fundamental value determination…that it is far worse to convict an innocent man than to let a guilty man go free.
EDIT: Shortformblog informs me that that Mr. Mortion received a life sentence and was not sentence to death. I have amended my remarks accordingly.
Gee, did it take them long enough?!
At least they didn’t kill this innocent man…