[Buddha-l] Ethical Dilemmas----------in addition:
jkirk at spro.net
Sun Jun 13 10:58:51 MDT 2010
If you don't have time to read through Garret's article (the pdf
mentioned in my previous post), it is summarised here:
...Garret found that of the 200 people convicted for crimes for
which they were later exonerated, just eighteen were granted
reversals by the appellate courts.
Of the rest, 67 had their appeals denied with no written ruling
at all. In 63 cases, the appellate court's opinion referred to
the defendant's guilt. In 12 other cases, it referred to the
"overwhelming" evidence of guilt.
In the remaining cases, the appeals courts either found the
defendant's appeal without merit, or found some merit in his
claims, but found that the trial court's errors were "harmless,"
or unlikely to have affected the jury's verdict.
Keep in mind, these are all cases in which the defendant was
later determined to be actually innocent of the crime for which
he was convicted. More alarmingly, Garret found in his research
of these 200 cases that "even after DNA testing became available,
courts and law enforcement also posed obstacles to conducting DNA
testing, and then denied relief even after DNA proved innocence.
Many were convicted despite DNA testing pointing to their
innocence, and 41 had to rely on the mercy of a governor's pardon
power because, despite their proven innocence, they had already
exhausted their appeals, and could make no further claims in
"Thus for some," Garret concludes. "Even once DNA evidence
exonerated them, our judicial system was unwilling or unable to
provide a remedy."
Garret's study is chilling.
Even if these 200 cases represent a small percentage of the
subset of cases for which DNA testing can conclusively point to a
defendant's guilt or innocence - say one or two percent - it's
safe to assume that the flaws in the criminal justice system that
allowed them to happen exist in all criminal cases, not just rape
or murder cases.
The same overeager prosecutors, corrupt or incompetent forensics
experts and cops, mistaken eyewitnesses, and indifferent courts
that prosecute and oversee these cases also move thousands of
cases through the system for which there's no safety net of DNA
If it's this difficult for an innocent person to clear his name
in cases where there's science available to deliver a definitive
answer, imagine the people now wrongly sitting in a jail cell for
drug offenses, theft, or for violent crimes for which there was
no available biological evidence-people for whom science offers
little hope for relief.
...."The US legal system's motto is: Innocent until proven
Great motto, we have the same one here. Sarkozy has also adopted
the American system of the possibility to plead guilty, offering
more clemency in exchange for less hassle. Does a guilty plea
*prove* anything? Considering a guilty plea the equivalent of
proof, opens the possibility that someone may plead guilty not
totally out of their own free will. ...........
We finally have some lawyers (various Innocence Projects around
the country) who've been investigating cases of imprisonment with
faked or faulty evidence--their main method (not available until
sort of recently --sorry I don't have dates) is DNA evidence.
Several African-American guys falsely imprisoned for years have
finally got their release from prisons because of this project.
Our prison system is unethical from the vantage point of anyone
who is not a knee-jerk "lock em up & throw away the key" type.
Far too many mostly male folks are serving long sentences simply
because they were caught more than 2 times with drugs. Result:
prison overcrowding around the country, that has led to
privatising the building and management of prisons, where much
worse often happens because Uncle Sam isn't around (it also
happens when he IS around, but perhaps less?). For a review of
this situation, see the pdf titled "Judging Innocence" on this
page from the Columbia Law Review: http://tinyurl.com/2ak7n7v
Another phenom. that seems to be on the rise is cops shooting on
flimsy basis people they are trying to detain.
The usual excuse is, he raised his hand and I thought I saw a
(gun--sword--knife--stick--rock) in it. No point in going on with
the long list of civil rights offenses that police get away
with--suffice it to remind us of the Rodney King case in LA. The
psychotic murderers and child kidnappers in our midst, however,
seem to be increasing-- it's not all a matter of condemning the
Many big cities around the country now have Buddhist meditation
programs that are allowed into the prisons. Unknown to me if they
more than superficially help the prisoners (as they claim).
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