[Buddha-l] Ethical Dilemmas----------in addition:

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Sun Jun 13 11:27:00 MDT 2010


> 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
> testing.
> 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.

That's all very true. The cultural ethos, as your sense of horror and 
disdain illustrates, is to fix such things once a light is shown on them. 
Reform can be slow, and these days it goes against the current of victim's 
rights, child abuse hysteria (the McMartin trial, etc.), women demanding 
easier conviction rules for rapists and sexual harrassers, OJ and Robert 
Blake verdicts, repeated stories of paroled or released prisoners killing 
and/or raping someone soon after release (prompting people to wonder how 
many times does this person have to kill someone before he's kept off the 
streets?), etc. In other words, at the moment there is not a great momentum 
to further liberalize the judicial and penal systems. Few have any 
confidence in the various rehabilitation strategies employed, and recidivism 
rates for many crimes remain high.

Many leading law enforcement officials have complained that pursuing drug 
offenders, especially small time personal use type offenses, is a waste of 
police resources that would be better spent elsewhere, and at times 
localities have largely ignored drug crimes -- usually forced back into 
action by federal politicians (Clinton, eg., not just Republican 
demagogues). On the other hand, addictive drugs force many people into petty 
crimes (burglary, armed robbery, mugging, etc.) and sometimes violent 
versions of these, so that the people incarcerated for drugs may be serving 
time because that sort of physical evidence was available for trial (or to 
get a plea), while sufficient evidence for a conviction of a string of 
burlaries would be harder (just as Al Capone ended up serving time for tax 
evasion, not ganster dealings).

The problem of innocents getting caught up in the system -- I think 
everyone's secret nightmare -- is real. The good news, if belated (and thus 
still somewhat tragic), is that at least some of these people are being 
exonerated, and that efforts to keep reviewing cases and methods, even long 
after convictions, is a healthy sign.


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