Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Another Innocent Man Convicted in this Land of the Free

Well, it’s happened again, and it will happen over and over and over until  juries stop presuming that their government officials, judges, prosecutors, cops, etc., always tell them the truth: another factually innocent man has had his case set aside after decades in prison, and largely based on erroneous eyewitness testimony.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times [why not in the Desert Sun???], Francisco Carrillo was wrongfully convicted, as digested here:

[LA Superior Court Judge] Bacigalupo overturned Carrillo's 1992 murder conviction Monday after witnesses recanted their identification of him as the gunman and a dramatic reconstruction of the shooting raised doubts about whether they could have ever reliably identified the shooter.

The murder case against Carrillo hinged solely on the word of six teenage boys who had been standing with the victim on a Lynwood street when the gunman drove by. One jury deadlocked 7 to 5 in favor of acquitting Carrillo, but a second jury found him guilty. He was sentenced to two life terms in prison.

Last week, five of the six witnesses testified at the Compton Courthouse that they had not clearly seen the gunman. Among them was the victim's son, who said he made his identification because one of his friends at the scene said he recognized Carrillo as the shooter. That friend also recanted.

The case underscores what legal experts say is the danger of eyewitness testimony. Studies have shown that faulty identifications are the biggest factor in wrongful convictions and that witnesses are particularly unreliable when identifying someone of a different race. The witnesses who identified Carrillo are black, while he is Latino.

This case is merely the tip of an outrageous iceberg of wrongful convictions; they happen all the time. The problem with unearthing them is that not all wrongfully convicted people have the wherewithal to reopen their case, and where the sentences are comparatively short, they would have completed their sentences by the time the system was able to help them.  And a lot of the reason that most of these things don’t get rectified is because judges and DAs are reluctant to give defense attorneys the tools to attend to the matter.  Our U.S. Supreme Court, supreme only in its finality and not in its wisdom, has famously held that for liberty-suffering people to come to them for habeas corpus relief, the Great Writ which is supposed to protect all against arbitrary and evil government [the Framers recognized government is evil; it’s only modern statists who deny such], one must pose an argument other than that he is innocent!  Innocence alone is not enough to undo a wrongful conviction in the tribunal set up to protect us from overweening government!  And we thought Saddam was an extremist in his assaults on Liberty!  Moreover, it is not a foregone conclusion that one can get a court order for post-conviction DNA testing, which is the vehicle by which many wrongful convictions are overturned.  Trial courts and DAs make such very difficult to obtain.

Jurors must, must, must start to look at stuff presented to them with the fundamental skepticism the Framers intended, or else they or their loved ones could, indeed eventually will, get caught up in the illegal conviction-o-mania besetting this land for the last 3 or 4 decades.

When citizens presume their government to be wise, honest, correct, and supportable in its actions, that defines a police state.  And Folks, we are there.  One of the biggest mistakes a defense attorney can make is to call a lying cop a liar; most jurors these days are police groupies and they take great personal umbrage when their badged “heroes” are attacked.

We see instances daily of police and governmental treachery and duplicity and evil, but jurors do not want to believe the one who is smiling at them in court, Boy Scoutishly, is one of those sorts.  And trying to convince the pro-government jurors that the prosecutor has motives other than presenting the unvarnished truth is tantamount to suggesting that the Father of our country, George Washington, cycled his slaves in and out of his Philadelphia government residence every 6 months because of the law that if they lived in Pennsylvania more than 6 months, they would be free, and he didn’t want that.  [Huh?  He did that?  Ooops, sorry, bad example, I guess.  Or the apt one!]

We have a moral imperative in this land, especially if we are going to continue to boast the claim of “exceptionalism,” to understand that liberty is the ascendant value, power is the diminishing value, and the devices the Framers left us for keeping the proper relationship there [beyond reasonable doubt burden on government, presumption of innocence for accused people, neutral jurors working with a neutral judiciary to stand against the waves of tyranny, right to bear arms in the citizenry, warrants for liberty invasions, and a non-proactive constabulary], or else the tears shed at 4th of July parades when the Flag goes by is sheer hypocrisy – or worse.

Let us return the Republic to an even, liberty-oriented keel.  And let’s compensate those wrongfully convicted handsomely from the coffers of the prosecutors and judges who did not do their jobs, and if there was malice on the part of those prosecutors, judges, or the investigating cops that gave rise to the wrongful convictions, let them serve the same sentence illicitly imposed on innocent citizens.  For all wrongs, there needs to be a remedy commensurate with the gravity of the wrong.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Be civil, intelligent, and non-confrontational.