Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Black Robe gang, cont.

"The lawyer's truth is not Truth, but consistency or a consistent expediency."

Scalia on kneepads for the Prosecution/LATimes

"Since the 1990s, the advent of DNA evidence has swept across the American criminal justice system and revealed that hundreds of convicted prisoners were innocent. Yet, throughout that time, the Supreme Court has shielded prosecutors from claims that they hid evidence that could have revealed the truth and has been reluctant to give prisoners a right to reopen old cases.
By a 5-4 vote Tuesday, the high court threw out a jury verdict won by John Thompson, the Louisiana man who had sued the New Orleans district attorney after he spent 14 years on death row for crimes he did not commit. In the past, the court has shielded individual prosecutors from being sued, even if they deliberately framed an innocent person. Last week's decision protects a district attorney's office from being sued for a series of errors that sent an innocent man to prison....."

""The Supreme Court's seminal decision in Brady v. Maryland recognized that prosecutors must tell the defense about any evidence that negates the guilt of the accused. If a prosecution witness has a motive to lie in order to curry favor from the state, the defense has a right to know. If evidence from the scene of the crime proves the defendant innocent, the defendant obviously has a right to know. A criminal trial is not a game. The prosecution's objective must be to do justice, even if that means the defendant gets acquitted.

The evidence at the trial of Thompson's civil lawsuit proved overwhelmingly that Connick was indifferent, if not hostile, to his obligation under the Brady ruling. Connick's office didn't provide any training to assistant DAs on the disclosure requirement. His assistants didn't know the basics of the rule. And in Thompson's case, they withheld from the defense team ten exculpatory reports and records - in addition to the exonerating blood evidence in the armed robbery - that undercut Thompson's murder conviction.""

An ugly and disregarded topic, wrongful conviction.   Most  Americans, at least the white, sunday school types, know nothing about it, just as they don't understand the 4th Amendment or US-Con. taken  as a whole (the Founders were well-acquainted with the injustice wrought by wrongful conviction--that was de rigueur for British and european royal courts). Americans tend to consider the official representatives of the Law--whether judges, prosecutors, or police--infallible, beyond reproach, "untouchable". Obedience to Authori-tay forms part of the WASP puritan tradition, IOHE--and that can be verified via social psychology experiments (google Milgram for starters). Reality, however, is a bit nastier than  the myth of deputies in white-hats, or Dragnet, etc. Prosecutorial and police misconduct occurs regularly--though whether the official small town police gazette aka "newspaper" says anything about it is another matter.

Those humans who have a family member or friend who has been wrongly convicted--or maliciously prosecuted--, sitting in a maximum security prison with real violent criminals  understand wrongful conviction. They understand the outrage some feel about corrupt prosecutors and judges, and the police who help them. They probably recognize what an ugly, sinister human being Snitch-in-Command Scalia is, as well.

More on the Black Robe gang:
40 years

wrinkled robe


return of the black robe


Moriarty said...

Interesting decision. Judges and prosecutors are not scientists, and evidentiary issues involve empirical, scientific issues--such as those related to ballistics--which they are typically not trained to assess. Scalia or Thomas most likely don't know the structure of DNA from their wives' favorite lasagne recipe.

The detectives and forensics people may be trained in analyzing evidence but they are not really scientists either. There may be an "expert", such as a coroner, who the court relies upon when a difficulty arises--such as DNA trace, carbon, bodily fluids, so forth. On the whole the forensics work tends to be shoddy, however, and nearly all cases involve probabilities aka guestimates, unless there is direct evidence (video tape, witnesses, or perp arrested while committing a crime etc).

There are violent criminals who need to be locked down and/or put under psychological care, but innocent, or mostly innocent people are wrongfully convicted at times. The system's not perfect.

It seems obvious that courts are obligated to examine all evidence, including DNA--yet court politics most likely prevents a purely objective approach to assessing evidence. The system's set up to give the judge the final word. DNA evidence thus threatens the power of the legal establishment--the SC decision reflects the Black Robes' paranoia.

J said...

Thanks for comment. I agree there exists a definite political context to the law business, whether in Podunkdale, or Washington DC. Dame Justice (or SC gang in this case) usually sneaks a peak from under her blindfold and decides whether decision X (civil or criminal) is ...good for bidness, more or less--expedient as Holmes or Watson might put it.

The SC's "Citizens United" decision had definite political consequences (e.g., it enabled a POS like Rove to buy elections for the TP/GOP).

This decision may not seem as significant but does relate to civil liberties, or what were formerly known as such.

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