Myths of the Criminal Justice System, Part 3

Friday, June 24th, 2011

The final installment of my HuffPost series is now online.

Today’s topics: sex offenders, eyewitness testimony, and wrongful convictions.

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9 Responses to “Myths of the Criminal Justice System, Part 3”

  1. #1 |  Irving Washington | 

    I think you did a smart thing with this series. It was nothing too revolutionary for your longtime readers but what a great primer for your new ones at HuffPo.

  2. #2 |  Kristen | 

    Seconded, Irving!

  3. #3 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    I’m astonished at how many of the commenters try to defend the so-called “justice system”, though.

  4. #4 |  IrishMike | 

    Strong finish to a great series. And #1 and #2 are right on – the perfect libertarian intro that may actually find sympathic liberal readers. As opposed to say a pro-gun or small government series.

    One of the commenters complimented “Mr. Radko” for the article – for some reason that is just cracking me up.

  5. #5 |  Rick H. | 

    One commenter was extremely interested in impeaching your sources, and not so forthcoming with contrary data points.

    I wanted to check out more comments, but their comment server seems broken and no other pages will load.

  6. #6 |  Wesley | 

    God dammit, Balko, not only have you made me read HuffPo, but now you’ve made me register there to correct someone’s crazy assumption that federal sentencing guidelines are applicable to all sexual assault cases.

    I feel dirty.

  7. #7 |  Greg | 

    I’m astonished at how many of the commenters try to defend the so-called “justice system”, though.

    Maggie McNeill,

    Personally, I’m astonished that there were as many posters who didn’t defend the status quo.

    (I’m also really astonished given your self-proclaimed history, let alone your self-proclaimed age, that you would proport as to be naive enough to believe otherwise. I’m the age you say your are.Let’s pretend you somehow missed ‘Nam, didn’t Watergate cure belief in the EasterBunny?

    HuffyPo has always been positioned as diametric opposition to the NeoCon sites. Ergo, the groupthink is generally equivalently shallow, nauseating, and unthoughtful – albeit just a tiny bit more palatable due to the “liberal” bias.

    Sheep come in many colors, but the fact remains they remain guided by the shepherd. Sheep have no clue why they run with the heard, beyond that they think “it’s the way it’s supposed to be”…

  8. #8 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Apropo of the second article about multiple jeopardy– I ran into this, which is something of an argument for the other side.

    Short version: a random Chinese man was beaten by two auto workers who were angry (this was the 80s) about Japanese competition. He died of the injuries soon afterwards. There doesn’t seem to be any question about whether convicted men were the perpetuators.

    They plea bargained into a minor penalty and were cleared in Federal court. They were eventually hit with fairly high civil penalties, but nothing that I would say was adequate for their crime.

    The arguments for why people should not face unlimited harassment because they’d been accused are strong, but courts with excessive sympathy for some categories of offender are a serious problem too. Any suggestions?

  9. #9 |  Stan | 

    I just stumbled upon this now, and I wish I’d seen it three weeks ago. I voted to convict a guy of murder based on the testimony of one eyewitness who seemed credible. The eyewitness was the only thing putting this particular guy at the crime scene; though her testimony matched the physical evidence, suggesting that she did see the shooting, it was only her word that ID’d him. The rest was all circumstantial evidence (rival gangs, threats made earlier, etc etc).

    Being a good juror, I limited myself to the info presented at trial, and came away believing the witness (as did all of us in the end). But if I could do it again today I would vote to acquit, because since then I’ve been reading more about eyewitnesses — this has never been a subject that I paid much attention to — and I can easily imagine that what you describe here is what happened, with official approval encouraging this woman and persuading her she’s right about what she thought she saw. We spent our time debating why she would lie and couldn’t come up with a plausible reason; now I see that that was beside the point. She could have been perfectly sincere and mistaken.

    I don’t know what to do.

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