Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Systemic Injustice

We know the factors of failed justice.  Often, they form a syndrome.  No single correction or remedy will address them all.  The cures cannot be legislated.  Like all crime, ultimately it comes down to the individual who makes the choice.  Scandals are rooted in bad society, when injustice is rewarded because of willful corruption or careless disregard for consequences.  That may be easier to fix. 

Tucker Carrington, the director of the Mississippi Innocence Project, says he and his colleague Will McIntosh decided to pursue Mabry's killer themselves after they attempted to bring the case to the attention of the prosecutor in Humphreys County, and then to Hood's office, and received no response from either.

“When you take on a case and it reveals a glaring injustice like this -- something that could easily be taken care of if someone would just give it some attention -- you can't just turn a blind eye to that," Carrington says. "In the end, I guess we saw this through because no one else would.”

“In fact, the way forensics are handled in the courtroom has become a persistent problem across the country, not just in Mississippi. Forensic scandals have been erupting at crime labs nationwide over the last decade. Most recently, there was a scandal at the state drug lab in Massachusetts that could affect thousands of convictions; another drug lab scandal in Nassau County, N.Y., that could also hit thousands of cases; and misconduct at the state crime labs in Connecticut and North Carolina that have led to reviews of hundreds of cases, including murder convictions. Currently, there's an ongoing controversy involving the FBI's crime lab, in which analysts were found to have vastly overstated the significance of hair and fiber analysis while testifying in court. That too has spurred a review of thousands of cases going back more than a decade. The FBI lab had been considered one of the most elite crime labs in the world.”
Solving Kathy Mabry's Murder: Brutal 15-Year-Old Crime Highlights Decades-Long Mississippi Scandal by Radley Balko
Posted: 01/17/2013 1:42 pm EST
Updated: 01/17/2013 9:44 pm EST

A decade later, more-advanced DNA testing determined that there was semen from two men inside of Jackson, and neither of them was Kennedy Brewer. The state Supreme Court ordered a new trial. Despite the test results, Allgood planned to prosecute Brewer again. When The New York Times asked him why he hadn’t bothered checking the crime scene DNA against the state’s DNA database, Allgood replied that the state doesn’t have such a database. This came as a surprise to the man who had been running it.
“Bad Boys: A rogue’s gallery of misbehaving prosecutors, plus three worth praising” by Radley Balko from the July 2011 issue

On LinkedIn
On 01/27/13 4:30 PM, Lettie McSpadden wrote:
I've written an actual case study that has examples of most of the procedural errors that can be made by law enforcement officials.  It began with the murder of a girl, the arrest and trial of three men two of whom were convicted and sentenced to death.  Later the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the convictions and the prosecution tried the individually two despite the admission of guilt by a third party. During two new trials, convictions, and two subsequent Illinois Supreme Court appeals, the prosecutors refused to admit error even when the third man’s DNA proved his guilt. (Meanwhile he committed two other murders.)  After a preliminary hearing where one policeman’s previous testimony proved erroneous, a new judge ordered the release of the accused.
Unlike other prosecutions full of procedural errors, this one resulted in the investigation, indictment, and trial of three policemen and two prosecutors who were found not guilty. Nevertheless, a new prosecutor ordered an examination of the facts and subsequently indicted and tried the real killer who was found guilty and sentenced to death.  He has not been executed as Illinois has a moratorium on the death penalty.
Meantime the convicted men filed a civil case in federal for wrongful imprisonment, and it was settled by the county where the criminal trials took place for three million dollars.

“Mistakes Were Made:  Prosecutorial Mistakes or Misconduct?
Download on Amazon.com to Kindle  Or Createspace for hard copy.
Lettie McSpadden, Professor of Political Science, Emerita, Northern Illinois University; maclettie@gmail.com

A checklist of factors is all too easy to construct.
ü      Mistaken eyewitness identification
·        At the scene
·        Police Lineups
ü      False confessions
·        Coerced pleas
·        Faux perpetrators
ü      Unreliable informants
·        Street
·        Jail, prison
ü      Prosecutorial misconduct
·        Withholding evidence, especially exculpatory evidence
·        Theorizing the existence of unidentified assailants
ü      Flawed forensic science
·        Laboratory fraud
·        Laboratory misconduct
·        Junk science
·        Pseudo-science
ü      Ineffective legal counsel
·        Physical resources
·        Courtroom community
ü      Prejudices, especially racism
·        Presumption of guilt
ü      Authoritarianism
·        Subjectivity of Policing

Based on Wrongly Convicted:Perspectives on Failed Justice by Saundra D. Westervelt and John A. Humphrey, eds., Rutgers University Press, 2002.

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