After first resisting, the Left joined in the race. During Bill Clinton's eight years in office, the nation's prison population doubled, and it was Clinton's own Department of "Justice" that carried out the biggest government-caused massacre of individuals since Wounded Knee in 1890. (And the biggest cheerleaders for Clinton's massacre were liberals and the Religious Right, which showed that at least on the shooting and burning of innocent children, Left and Right happily could co-exist.)
Not everyone has been silent. Radley Balko of Reason Magazine (and now the Huffington Post) has been a hero, and his work on behalf of those who have been falsely accused is featured in the recent Reason Magazine edition that covers this nation's system of "justice." Radley's article on wrongful convictions alone makes the issue outstanding.
Why are wrongful convictions endemic? Balko gives a number of reasons, but he singles out what he calls "he professional culture of the criminal justice system." He writes:
In addition to the more specific causes of wrongful convictions listed above, there is a problem with the institutional culture among prosecutors, police officers, forensic analysts, and other officials. Misplaced incentives value high conviction rates more than a fair and equal administration of justice.For all of the points prosecutors make of criminal liability and state bar sanctions against prosecutors guilty of misconduct, Balko sets the record straight:
Prosecutors in particular enjoy absolute immunity from civil liability, even in cases where they manufacture evidence that leads to a wrongful conviction. The only time prosecutors can be sued is when they commit misconduct while acting as investigators—that is, while doing something police normally do. At that point they’re subject to qualified immunity, which provides less protection than absolute immunity but still makes it difficult to recover damages.
...criminal charges are few and far between, and prosecutors can make egregious mistakes that still don’t rise to the level of criminal misconduct. Professional sanctions are also rare. A 2010 study by the Northern California Innocence Project found more than 700 examples between 1997 and 2009 in which a court had found misconduct on the part of a prosecutor in the state. Only six of those cases resulted in any disciplinary action by the state bar. A 2010 investigation of federal prosecutorial misconduct by USA Today produced similar results: Of 201 cases in which federal judges found that prosecutors had committed misconduct, just one resulted in discipline by a state bar association. Prosecutorial misconduct was a factor in about one-quarter of the first 225 DNA exonerations, but none of the prosecutors in those cases faced any significant discipline from the courts or the bar.In fact, NO prosecutor in this country EVER has been convicted of prosecutorial misconduct, and it is not because the prosecutors in the dock were innocent. Instead, juries tend to treat prosecutors like they do police officers, often engaging in nullification decisions because Americans are taught to hold people of these professions in absolute deference.
There is also a common misconception that appeals courts serve as a check on criminal justice abuse. It is actually rare for an appeals court to review the evidence in a criminal case. Appeals courts make sure trials abide by the state and federal constitutions and by state or federal rules of criminal procedure, but they almost never second-guess the conclusions of juries.
Then there is lying. This comes from one prosecutor who apparently believes lies are just fine with him:
If you were to take every jailhouse informant at his word, you’d find that a remarkably high percentage of the people accused of felonies boast about their crimes to the complete strangers they meet in jail and prison cells. Informants are particularly valuable in federal drug cases, where helping a prosecutor obtain more convictions is often the only way to get time cut from a mandatory minimum sentence. That gives them a pretty good incentive to lie.No, Grayson won't have to worry about being charged with suborning perjury, nor will he face discipline from his state bar. And it is my sense that Grayson is typical of prosecutors, both state and federal. We saw enough of that during the Tonya Craft trial, and a representative of the Georgia State Bar told me that she was just fine with that conduct, and that the State Bar pretty much condoned it. "They were just doing their jobs," she told me.
There is some disagreement over a prosecutor’s duty to verify the testimony he solicits from jailhouse informants. In the 2006, Church Point, Louisiana, case of Ann Colomb, for example, Brett Grayson, an assistant U.S. attorney in Louisiana, put on a parade of jailhouse informants whose claims about buying drugs from Colomb and her sons were rather improbable, especially when the sum of their testimony was considered as a whole. According to defense attorneys I spoke with, when one attorney asked him if he actually believed what his informants were telling the jury, Grayson replied that it doesn’t matter if he believes his witnesses; it only matters if the jury does. He expressed a similar sentiment in his closing argument. (Emphasis mine)
I wish the state of things was different, but it is not. Lying is accepted in our political and "justice" culture, and nothing ever will change. Those of us who believe that lying has no place in either sphere are a tiny minority, but at least we still can raise our voices, just as the people at Reason have done so.