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   The American InJustice System
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mitakeet
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The American InJustice System
« on: Feb 1st, 2008, 6:23pm »
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People already talk extensively about how the rich can buy a favorable verdict in our justice system (which, I expect, is true of every legal system in the world (where 'rich' may be defined as other than monetary wealth)) and recently there has been seemingly endless commentary about the uneven expression of justice when celebrities are involved, but I would like to discuss the injustice of the innocent caught in our system.  First, I believe it is clear that in most, if not all, cases, prosecutors are only interested in winning, not in truth.  Clearly defense attorneys are only interested in winning and I believe have an ethical mandate to even lie in the service of their clients, but I do not believe that the same ethics should be applied by the prosecutors and police.  There are many cases where people are bullied into false confessions that lead directly to convictions, where is the truth in that?  
 
Lets examine the case where ordinary people who cannot afford a million-dollar defense team get caught up in the system.  If they are actually guilty, then the smart play is to plea bargain for a more minor charge with a smaller sentence, serve their time and get on with things.  If they are innocent, then they might be expected to believe that truth will win out and that a jury trial will exonerate them.  Instead, what we seem to find is that the innocent are routinely convicted on the flimsiest of evidence (or no evidence whatsoever as happens many times) and are sentenced to maximums on the most severe charges.  Then they are denied parole (presuming it is even offered) because they refuse to accept responsibility or show remorse for the crimes they didn't commit.  What sort of 'justice' is that?
 
It seems ironic to me that a career criminal can brutally murder someone (say they only leaving equivocal evidence) and plea bargain their way to a minimal sentence, yet the same case (again with no d**ning evidence), if prosecuted against an innocent person who stupidly believes in the system, gets life or even the death sentence.  I can sympathize with the concept that it is cheaper to plea bargain than to have a trial, but that is in effect punishing innocent people who refuse to bargain (they didn't do it, how can they admit to it?) and have the full weight of the sentence imposed on them.  I am sure there are some guilty people who opt for a full trial as a way to extend their day in the sun or on a long-shot gamble, but why should the innocent believe they should be treated worse than the career criminal?
 
Public defenders, the ones most likely to be representing the ordinary people who cannot afford the million dollar defense, often have many cases to work at the same time and generally have few resources for investigating, testing or expert witnesses.  Certainly to get any additional resources they have to petition the court for those resources decreasing the likelihood of 1) even bothering asking and 2) actually being granted.  So there is a massive disconnect between the resources brought to bear upon the trial of the ordinary person (innocent or guilty).  The state, through the prosecutor, has a full-time staff of experienced detectives, access to crime scene investigators, not to mention a staff of paralegal and support lawyers.  The public defender has him or her self and presumably a burning sense of idealism (maybe at the beginning, anyway).  Add to this the regular reports of prosecutors concealing evidence that might exonerate the accused (how come so few of these situations result in lengthy jail sentences?  Even Nifong, disbarred AND convicted criminally, serves but a day) how can anyone (innocent or guilty) expect a fair trial.  Add to this the confounding element mentioned above that the experienced career criminal will bargain while the innocent refuse to.
 
Is there a credible, economical way to address these issues?  If the guilty do not have the incentive of a lighter sentence then they have no interest in forgoing the trial where at least there is a small chance of aquital.  If the innocent are railroaded into a guilty plea the justice system completely turns their back on them insisting that no innocent person would every do so, yet if their prospects of aquital are bleak they might be ill served by any suggestion that they trust the system.  Since humans are such excellent liars it is impossible to know for sure if one is guilty or innocent, yet the innocent have the system so carefully stacked against them that it seems that something needs to be done.  If you are lucky enough to stay out of the grasp of the system all is fine and dandy, but if you get caught up by investigators that don't care to find any other suspect when they have a nicely packaged one in yourself and the prosecution thinks that they can easily prevail on the public defender, particularly if they leave out some critical bits of evidence, essentially you are helpless and your life is destroyed.  How is that just?
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torporchair
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Re: The American InJustice System
« Reply #1 on: Feb 3rd, 2008, 8:19am »
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I did some reading about the current state of affairs in the courts of the United States. I read a book by a guy who was a prosecutor, his job was to prosecute and find people guilty and get the judge to impose a heavy sentence. I read another book by a public defender.
 
What I took away from this reading was that if a person is arrested, they are expected to plead. If a person is arrested and insists on a jury trial, they had better win, because the courts are not equipped to try cases. There are far too many, like way far incredibly too many cases for any considerable percentage of them to go to trial. This is why there is such heavy pressure to take a plea bargain.
 
Because of the completely overloaded courts, if a person insists on a jury trial and is found guilty, the judge will sentence them more heavily as a penalty for having taken the time of the court.  
 
Sound impossible and crazy?  
 
A prosecutor and defense attorney constantly deal with the judges, bargaining pleas and sentences. They have to deal with these judges all the time. So they have to try to get the best bargain they can each time, but they also have to be reasonable and not antagonize the judges. The thing that really causes friction is taking a case to trial, because this is what burdens the court. This is perfectly understood by the prosecutor and the defense.  
 
If a defender canít get the accused to plead, then there is the tacit understanding that if the accused loses, they will pay for having taken up the time of the court. And the manner in which they will pay is a heavier sentence than they would have gotten if they had accepted a plea bargain.
 
This system is entirely inadequate to deal fairly with a person who is innocent. And it is inevitable that some innocent people stand accused. Look at the people on death row who were exonerated from DNA evidence. No one can deny that innocent people are sometimes accused. If no innocent people were ever arrested, why would courts be necessary?  
 
If you ever stand accused and have to either plead or go to trial, my suggestion is that you pull out all the stops and try to afford an attorney rather than a public defender. No disrespect for public defenders, but they are over-burdened. If you are innocent, you are naturally going to want a trial to prove your innocence rather than accept a plea and have to plead guilty to a crime you did not commit.  
 
Whether you hire an attorney or have a public defender, you must use every ounce of energy and time to research the precedents and everything relevant to your case and make it clear that you expect to be well represented. Do not be timid with your counsel. Make it clear you expect the very best effort your counsel is capable of.  
 
If you ever stand accused in court, it is a battle. It is pure battle. You must fight with everything you have. You must forgo your normal sleep habits, use whatever means necessary to remain wakeful as long as it takes to fight to the best of your ability. Time becomes the essence of your survival. You must study, assert, fight.
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whirledpeas
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Re: The American InJustice System
« Reply #2 on: Feb 5th, 2008, 5:25am »
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These things make sense to me. From what I hear, thee other problem is that prosecutors make more money than public defenders.  
 
The one good thing is that a good defense lawyer can make good money. But then, there's that problem again, that the person who really NEEDS the defense attorney can't afford the good ones.
 
Let me ask anyone-
 
Is there another country in the world that has a better system and if so who and where?
 
And, most important : what is the system and how does it work?
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