Wrongful convictions: A bad taste in the mouth of prosecutors!

I’m watching Lester Holt this week, and that gets me to wondering if we’ll ever learn how to treat people who are wrongly convicted. 

Face it. Michigan doesn’t have a stellar record in this field. 

What a revelation it was for me, as a seasoned broadcast journalist, to dive into the sea of wrongful convictions back in the mid-90s. One of the things that absolutely blew my mind back then, and still does today, is the very real resistance that arises within our alleged system of justice. 

In the Maurice Carter case, we had actual proof of the real shooter’s identity, but no one would do anything about it! 

Yes, between the desire to save face and the hidden desire to prevent exonerees from collecting money that rightfully belongs to them for years spent behind bars, Michigan has little to be proud of. 

But, Missouri is worse! 

Back to Lester Holt. NBC news did a feature on the plight of one Lamar Johnson. Mr. Johnson is in prison for a murder two other people confessed to committing. Why is he still locked up? Well, Missouri law says that a prosecutor can only seek a new trial within 15 days of a conviction— in Johnson’s case, back in 1995. Hopefully there’s light at the end of the tunnel, as a new state law is set to go into effect later this month that will give prosecutors more power to correct wrongful convictions, even years later. 

But here’s the stuff that really yanks my chain! 30 elected Missouri prosecutors submitted a brief not only arguing that Johnson should remain in prison despite his innocence, but that St. Louis District Attorney Kim Gardner behaved unethically when she asked a court to release him. Sick! 

That should surprise no one in Missouri. A recent Washington Post article by Radley Balko revealed these additional absurdities: 

-At least three men remain imprisoned despite the fact that the prosecutors in the jurisdictions where they were convicted have released the evidence of their innocence and the real killers have confessed. 

-The Missouri AG’s office, which handles post-conviction cases in the state, has a tradition of defending every conviction, regardless of merit. Joseph Amrine was on death row when found innocent. But listen to this: In 2001, a state supreme justice asked the prosecutor, “Are you suggesting . . . even if we find that Mr. Amrine is actually innocent, he should be executed?'” The prosecutor responded, “That is correct, your honor.” 

Now that should flabber your gast! 

There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.”

― Charles-Louis de Secondat


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