Third Party & Independents Archives

Will this be "the" one case?

Today Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner ordered that DNA testing be done on evidence that has been stored since 1981 in the case of Roger Keith Coleman. Coleman was executed in 1992 for the rape and murder of his sister in law, Wanda McCoy. While it is obvious those who have fought for years for this testing to happen are attempting to establish proof to demonstrate an innocent man was executed as a way to stop the use of the death penalty, there are other issues this brings to the surface no matter the outcome.

Back in November I wrote an article about Ruben Cantu that focused on that case and some information on inmates in Texas who had proclaimed their innocence right up to the very moment of their execution. Roger Coleman also proclaimed his innocence until the very end, though he ironically failed a polygraph test earlier on the day of his execution.

The State of Virginia has not only fought to keep the DNA testing from happening, but has tried to have this evidence destroyed. They have also attempted to have the law changed so that any remaining DNA evidence from a death penalty case is destroyed once the inmate is executed. Virginia is not alone in this, many states fight this type of situation after a death sentence has been completed. One wonders why this is, you would think if the case was truly that strong that a State would welcome the testing and quickly so that any speculation would end. It is the fear of the unknown, that the State may have very well allowed the excecution of an innocent to happen that helps create this type of response.

Today's Washington Post article points out what a huge impact this one case could have:

Ira Robbins, an American University criminal law professor, said if Coleman is proven innocent it would push many Americans who are unsure about capital punishment to oppose it. But even if the tests prove Coleman was a killer, he said, it could spark testing of more old cases nationwide.

"Lets assume it comes back that he was proved innocent. Here is the case that the death penalty opponents have been looking for for a long time -- that we have executed an innocent person," Robbins said. "It could be the biggest turning point in death penalty abolition."

In 2001, a lawyer with the Virginia attorney general's office told a circuit judge that "Continual reexamination of concluded cases brings about perpetual uncertainty . . . and disparages the entire criminal justice system."

Robbins could be correct but as it presently stands the Court precedence seems to not support the idea of testing after an execution is done. This earlier Washington Post piece concerning the Court refusual to demand the retesting while focused more on the fact that it was a media source that was demanding the retesting makes it clear:

Justice Donald W. Lemons wrote for the unanimous court. The testing of the remaining DNA would "generate a new scientific report, thereby altering, manipulating, and/or destroying existing evidence in order to create new evidence."

The court also found that the physical evidence in criminal cases is not considered open under state freedom of information laws. "Clearly the biological material recovered on swabs from the . . . victim does not meet the test of a 'public record.' Even if it did, the VFOIA allows for inspection and copying, not testing," the opinion said.

This then of course brings up the motivation of Gov. Mark Warner to even order the testing. The Courts had clearly ruled in favor of the State. Warner leaves office next week and there are rumors that he is considering a Presidential run.

Even in the town of Grundy, where the murder and trial took place there is a difference of opinion on the retesting. Retired Judge Persin, who was the original judge for Coleman's trial on one hand feels "If you're examining it in a vacuum, a new test is a good thing," but he then states:

However, in "every other capital murder case down the road we may be creating an environment where juries may not consider giving the ultimate punishment" in cases where it is deserved, Persin said.

Toying with his glasses which he had set down carefully on the wooden table before him, he said, "It just opens up so many different things that you need to think about."

If this DNA testing shows Coleman was truly guilty it still raises the question should all DNA evidence from convicted inmates be destroyed after their execution? How long is to long?

According to Samuel R. Gross, a professor of law at the University of Michigan, there was another case where DNA evidence in Virginia was asked to be retested:

After Joseph O'Dell was executed in Virginia in 1997, the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Va., asked for permission to test DNA samples that could determine his innocence or guilt.

The state's objection in O'Dell's case was more to the point than in Coleman's: If the test went badly for the state, prosecutors argued, "it would be shouted from the rooftops that the Commonwealth of Virginia executed an innocent man." The courts ordered the evidence destroyed.

Should the State fear this to the point of preventing the truth to be discovered? Is the mere belief that all of those who were truly innocent are somehow spared the Death Penalty based on a strong enough foundation to continue to deny or destroy evidence that might prove otherwise?

In closing I quote retired Judge Nicholas Persin:

"We're always searching for the truth," he said.

But, he asked, "Is it worth looking at it now for certainty, or is it best left alone? How can I answer that without opening up a whole can of worms?"

"Can I say that something good won't come of this? No. I can't say that. Something good may well come from it."

Yet, "I think you also have to look at the other side of the coin. It may create a lot of pessimism and a lot of second-guessing on the part of jurors even in the really, really bad cases that merit giving the ultimate punishment," he said.

"It's a tough call," Persin said.


Posted by Lisa Renee Ward at January 5, 2006 10:24 PM
Comments
Comment #110541

For some reason, there are many people who believe that the risk of occasionally executing an innocent person is a risk worth taking.

I don’t understand it.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 5, 2006 11:35 PM
Comment #110545

I don’t see anything wrong with the Death Penalty. If you executed the innocent guy, his soul will still go to heaven. Ergo, we should make the Death Penalty mandatory for all crimes. Let God sort it out.

Posted by: Aldous at January 5, 2006 11:59 PM
Comment #110550

I think Matt it is because the idea of an innocent person being killed while the real guilty party might have escaped punishment is a concern. The whole concept of the death penalty is punishment of a guilty person. If the wrong person is killed then an injustice was done. The family does not truly have closure if the execution gave them closure.

I think there is a strong possibility that innocent people have been executed. However, I don’t see it as the end of the death penalty despite those who make the claim that the lack of this “one case” means the death penalty should continue. Or those that keep seeking this “one case” to demonstrate their point against the death penalty. However, one of the main reasons I do question the death penalty is because Justice can never be perfect because it is based on man. An improper life sentence can be reversed if an error is discovered. There is no reversal for the death penalty so especially in cases where the majority of evidence is circumstancial there should be caution.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 6, 2006 12:06 AM
Comment #110566

Lisa,

Without being close to the situation (and I’m saying this despite my confiction that most if not all our government is corrupt to some degree) I have to ask this question: Isn’t it possible that the state does not want the evidence to be tested (or re-tested), because the DNA evidence itself is questionable and/or may have been tampered with since its collection? I believe in DNA testing, but I don’t trust the methods of keeping DNA material so completely that I would believe, even after several years, it’s usuable and accurate to the point of being trustworthy to over-rule an entire court case. Yes, innocent people may have been, and probably have been, punished for crimes they did not commit, however I personally do not trust this as a fool-proof means of determining guilt or innocence.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 6, 2006 1:12 AM
Comment #110568

Perhaps it should have been tested before he was executed? If I were waiting to be executed, I might not pass a lie-detector test either. What extraordinary circumstances!

We should want the truth, even after the fact. Isn’t that the whole point?

Stephanie:

I believe the DNA material is capable of being tested, even after so long. I suspect the state’s concern is something entirely different.

DNA testing is now available and should be done in every case, even finished cases where the samples exist.

Being against the death penalty myself, because it can and does happen that innocent people are executed, perhaps with DNA evidence, I might change my mind. This could work both ways.

Then again, maybe not. If God is to sort it all out, it is not up to us to send folks to God in our time frame.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 6, 2006 1:23 AM
Comment #110574

I have always wondered why we don’t make executions a pay-per-view affair. You could raise a lot of money putting it on cable. If the prisoner and victims agree to do this, why not do it? We could give the money to charity or something.

Posted by: Aldous at January 6, 2006 1:57 AM
Comment #110578

womanmarine,

“I believe the DNA material is capable of being tested, even after so long.”

So do I, to a point. I believe DNA material that has not been tampered with and has been maintained in an appropriate fashion can be accurately tested after so long. But, considering how easy it is to contaminate such material, or mislable it, or mishandle it, I wouldn’t trust it as conclusive proof.

I’ll put it to you this way. If you saw someone rape and murder your friend. You saw his face. You saw him do the entire crime. But, when they caught him and did the DNA testing it matched your friend’s fiance, not the man you saw commit this awful crime…which would you believe? The DNA testing or your own eyes?

All I’m saying is that we are not privy to all the nitty gritty details the jury had to suffer through. We weren’t there when the DNA material was collected. We haven’t watched as the material has been stored for over two decades, to make sure it was handled properly. We don’t know how reliable this DNA material is and we don’t know the circumstances of the crime. Perhaps it matches, perhaps it doesn’t; if it doesn’t match, does that necessarily prove that he didn’t commit the crime? No, there could be other explanations. Why assume the jury got it wrong and the state is maliciously covering it up when the DNA hasn’t even been tested (or re-tested)?

“DNA testing is now available and should be done in every case, even finished cases where the samples exist.”

We don’t have the facilities for that. Reality isn’t like the crime shows where you can just send it down to the lab and have it back in a few days or a few hours. These labs are behind, most by months, some by years. It’s not as easy as all that.

“Then again, maybe not. If God is to sort it all out, it is not up to us to send folks to God in our time frame.”

Ah… The catch here, when you bring God into it, is there is no such thing as an innocent person under the laws of God. All have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God. We’ve all been sentenced to death since our births. In the scope of eternity, what does a few decades matter?

I’m not saying I agree wholly with the death penalty. I personally believe it should be reserved for extremely well-proven cases that call for extreme punishment (the kind of people you just don’t want to take the chance of them getting out ever again). When we know we’ve got our man (or woman) beyond any doubt, reasonable or otherwise, and what they did shattered and/or ended peoples lives, then by all means. However, that’s a pretty hard bill to fill for most of the crime that happens in this country.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 6, 2006 2:57 AM
Comment #110590

Lisa, as you showed, this sums up the issue nicely, Judge Persin says, “However, in “every other capital murder case down the road we may be creating an environment where juries may not consider giving the ultimate punishment” in cases where it is deserved, Persin said.”

Thank Buddha, this judge is retired. For inherent in his words is the belief that it is better to kill a few innocent people in order to kill the guilty as well. That argument defines the two camps on either side of this death penalty issue. Those who don’t mind killing innocents to get to kill the guilty, vs. those who hold that government in its pursuit of justice for the guilty should never take innocent lives as that consitutes an abuse of government power.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 6, 2006 6:37 AM
Comment #110596

Stephanie, there is a chance the DNA might not be of value, that wasn’t part of what I read brought up as an arguement but it is entirely possible it was also discussed. There was some concern on both sides as to the quality of the sample after all of these years.

David, this same judge is the one who went above what he was probably allowed to do to order the first DNA testing in 1990. He does support the death penalty but if you read the rest of what he states in this article, he has conflicting feelings on this case. Which is better than the “let God sort them out once we execute them” that some seem to have.

What I find ironic is one of the first statements from a pro-death penalty person usually is “Show me proof an innocent was ever killed”. Yet here we have another situation where that “proof” was stalled. Stephanie raises an interesting point, what if the DNA sample is damaged. Then this case goes back into the list of “We’ll never know”.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 6, 2006 8:11 AM
Comment #110601

Lisa:

There are several trains of thoughts out there about the death penalty:

A) Even if the person is truly guilty, the death penalty is never acceptable

B) The death penalty is acceptable only in very very limited instances (John Kerry claimed to be against the death penalty, but FOR it in cases of terrorism)

C) The death penalty is morally acceptable but is not applied properly or without error; therefore it should not be used.

D) The death penalty is acceptable even if mistakes are infrequently made, because it doesn’t allow for any recidivism etc.

I’d probably fit most closely into (C), though I’d have no problem pulling the switch on a Tim McVeigh or an Osama bin Laden, or even a Ted Bundy. (That’s TED Bundy, convicted mass murderer, not AL Bundy of ‘Married with Children”, lest anyone jump to conclusions, which of course never happens on Watchblog.)

In this case, if the DNA material passes the chain of custody requirements etc. and can reliably be tested properly, they should do it, even if it shows a mistake to have been made. If it cannot be tested to a 100% certainty, then they should not test it. They should not be afraid of the truth, even if the truth shows what they do not want to see.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 6, 2006 9:15 AM
Comment #110616

Joe, I’d have to say I’m probably more towards C as well. Even with the improvements in technology there still is the human factor. Errors do happen even in labs.

That said, I do believe the majority of those who have been executed were guilty. A large majority of those who have made final statements have admitted their guilt. It’s also realistic to conclude that not everyone who makes the claim that they were innocent at the time of execution is being truthful.

I also realize in the large scope of things the small number of possible innocent people executed pales in comparison to those murdered on a yearly basis in the US. Which is why to some the death penalty as an issue is not important. Yet for me I also see how this relates to the legal system as a whole. If we do not take enough care to prevent the execution of innocents, it’s obvious the concern that we do not take enough care for a standard conviction is a realistic one.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 6, 2006 10:23 AM
Comment #110626

I can not see any logic to the death penalty.

It does not prevent or deter murder.

It does not allow for correction or redemption of the criminal - IMO, the idea of living with your guilt for a long life in jail is a much more suitable punishment.

All potential systems a failable - so how can the death penatly even be warranted. No matter what system is used, there will always be mistakes made.

“Some who die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Don’t be so quick to deal out death.” — Gandalf

Posted by: tony at January 6, 2006 10:56 AM
Comment #110628

I have only two questions.
1. Was he convicted on DNA?
2. Why did it take over 20 years to execute him?

If he was convicted on DNA then retesting seems to be grasping at straws in trying to over turn the death penalty. If he wasn’t then it might be usefull in finding out if he was guilty or not.
Even if it is proved that he was guilty the death penalty opponents will still cry fowl. To them it’s more imporantant to keep murderers alive and sucking our tax money up than justice.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 6, 2006 11:05 AM
Comment #110630

Ron—

I have only two questions. 1. Was he convicted on DNA? 2. Why did it take over 20 years to execute him?

There were tests done at the time, but the technology is much more advanced today. It probably took that length of time to execute him because of the appeals process that is in place. Appeals that are absolutely necessary, when talking about someone’s life.

Even if it is proved that he was guilty the death penalty opponents will still cry fowl. To them it’s more imporantant to keep murderers alive and sucking our tax money up than justice.

Actually (and this is surely a fact you’ve heard time and time again) death penalty inmates cost the State more, on average, than LWOP inmates. I suppose this is important if you think money is more important than the life of another person.

Secondly, many oppose the death penalty for religious beliefs. Finally, many oppose the death penalty because they believe our system of law is imperfect. I guess that matters little to some, though they would likely be singing a different tune if either themselves or a family member was wrongly convicted.

This issues involved are much more complicated than simply “to keep murderers alive.”

Posted by: mattLaw at January 6, 2006 11:20 AM
Comment #110639

Tony:

I’d agree that the death penalty isn’t all that much of a deterrent, but not for the reasons that most see. Its not a deterrent primarily because of the lengthy appeals process that means 10-20 years often go by before the criminal is executed.

I believe it would be a deterrent if it were administered more quickly. Since we now have DNA testing that is highly advanced, we should be able to reach the conclusion about guilt or innocence more quickly.

Appeals are necessary when there is doubt about the guilt of a person. There are cases when all sides agree on the guilt due to the preponderance of evidence—in these cases, the appeals are more about whether the death penalty should be invoked anyway. IFF we have the death penalty for certain cases, and the guilt is definitive, then use the death penalty. Or get rid of it so its not a question of whether to use it.

The cost of executing someone is very cheap. The amount of legal wrangling is the expense. Define the law tightly, define when it is to be use and for what crimes, and then use it. Or simply agree to never use it. But the middle ground is where all the expense lies.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 6, 2006 11:37 AM
Comment #110656

jbd:

You statement I feel shows some of the fundamental issues with the death penalty:

‘Appeals are necessary when there is doubt about the guilt of a person.’

If theres doubt - how in the hell were they convicted in the first place. Just the idea there could be any doubt as to the guilt of a person on death row shows the possiblity that an innocent person could be killed.

For the record - I dont think this is a great case to hang ones hat on, on either side. The evidence is very old, and in a very very small amount, and my guess is that it will be inconclusive.

Posted by: justin at January 6, 2006 12:17 PM
Comment #110658

jbod,

I’m one of those ‘unlucky’ people who get called to jury duty every three years. In my 9 trials, 2 were for murder and 4 others for violent crimes. In all trials the individual who committed the crimes never thought of the consequences to themselves or the victim until afterwards.

In my opinion and experience, the death penalty provides no additional detterence than already exists with the threat of capture. My experience is also that prosecutions and defence never occur with the idea of guilt or innocense in mind, only the “win-ability” of the case.

Posted by: Dave at January 6, 2006 12:17 PM
Comment #110661

I don’t believe he was originally convicted on DNA, DNA tests were done in 1990 and did demonstrate it was possible he was the killer. His defense states those tests also raised the possibility there was more than one rapist.

However, DNA technology has advanced since 1990 which is why there was the request for advanced testing.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 6, 2006 12:26 PM
Comment #110665

joebagodonuts:

Appeals are necessary when there is doubt about the guilt of a person. There are cases when all sides agree on the guilt due to the preponderance of evidence—in these cases, the appeals are more about whether the death penalty should be invoked anyway. IFF we have the death penalty for certain cases, and the guilt is definitive, then use the death penalty. Or get rid of it so its not a question of whether to use it.

I’m sorry friend, but this doesn’t make any sense to me.

Who would you have determine whether or not there is “doubt” about the guilt of a person? That would require a completely separate determination by someone else. A judge? Another jury?

People would like to think that sometimes everyone “knows” who committed a crime, but creating a separate class of “definite” convictions would only undermine those convictions based on the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard … and the distinction would likely be meaningless to the fact-finder (the jury) anyway.

There is a constitutional right to the normal appeals process. For death row inmates, there is an additional right in the federal court system, the habeas corpus appeal (which has been significantly limited in the past few years).

Finally, you didn’t mean to say “preponderance of the evidence.” That standard requires less proof than the reasonable doubt standard, meaning that something only need be slightly more probable that it did happen than that it did not. It’s used in civil cases.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 6, 2006 12:36 PM
Comment #110670

I’d also point out in addition to there not being any DNA testing done at the time of the original trial, which was in 1981/1982, he was executed in 1992 so 20 years did not pass.

They have been attempting to have this DNA sample retested for quite some time now, going thru the various courts and then finally ending up with the Governor ordering it.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 6, 2006 12:53 PM
Comment #110676

Matt:

Thanks for some clarification—-I wasn’t trying to speak in strictly legal terminology. What I tried to say (poorly) is that we need to define what crimes fit the death penalty, define when specifically we can use the death penalty, and then use it. The alternative is to get rid of it. I’m personally okay with either choice, but the middle ground on this is where we currently seem to be—-arguing over every Tookie Williams etc that comes up.

Dave:

I agree that the death penalty is NOT a deterrent as used currently. But allow me to toss out an example of a deterrent. Do you remember the caning incident in Singapore(?), where an American teen was caned for vandalizing a car? Made the newspapers, made headline news, all kinds of publicity, and a relatively fast decision to issue the punishment. And I’ll bet (though of course I have no empirical evidence on this) that car vandalism went down as a result.

Used properly, the death penalty could be a deterrent for some crimes. Probably not crimes of passion or ‘in the moment’ crimes, such as the guy who recently shot his way out of a court room down south. But certainly in premeditated crimes, where there is planning and forethought.

I recall seeing the movie ‘Midnight Express’ about an American caught with drugs in Turkey. I’ve never dealt in drugs, but I recall hearing some who did say that while they might take drugs across state lines, or even the Canadian border, they would NEVER do so in the Middle East. The reason: “Those guys mean BUSINESS!!”

I doubt my assertions can be proven, since they’d require radical changes to the death penalty in order to do so. But I think the thought process is sound.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 6, 2006 1:23 PM
Comment #110686
I agree that the death penalty is NOT a deterrent as used currently. But allow me to toss out an example of a deterrent. Do you remember the caning incident in Singapore(?), where an American teen was caned for vandalizing a car? Made the newspapers, made headline news, all kinds of publicity, and a relatively fast decision to issue the punishment. And I’ll bet (though of course I have no empirical evidence on this) that car vandalism went down as a result.

Went down by who … Americans in Singapore?

Obviously, disproportionate punishments could cause some decline in crime … though I think it’s fairly safe to say that those who plan murders probably do not believe they will be caught.

I haven’t seen any numbers that suggest the death penalty works as a deterrent, however.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 6, 2006 2:23 PM
Comment #110698

jbod,

So you’re saying the death penalty should be applied to drug dealing (many people died in that movie, death penalty or not)? And, how far down the felony chain do you want to go? Are you also saying that the arbitrary application of other extreme punishments is a rational approach to crime prevention? By meaning “business” we’ll reduce crime? Sorry, that doesn’t work. It just makes for more desperate and violent criminals, and by extension, citezenry. Think “Wild West”.

Posted by: Dave at January 6, 2006 2:59 PM
Comment #110703

Dave:

So you’re saying the death penalty should be applied to drug dealing (many people died in that movie, death penalty or not)?

Never said that. Never even came close to saying that. I used the movie “Midnight Express” as an example of how a punishment can work as a deterrent, and I made that point clear. There was absolutely no correlation between my example and your question.

And, how far down the felony chain do you want to go?

I didn’t speak to what crimes should be covered under the death penalty. I even stated that I’m not really a proponent of the death penalty. But I am a proponent of making decisions, rather than rehashing them every time an execution comes up.

Are you also saying that the arbitrary application of other extreme punishments is a rational approach to crime prevention?

Didn’t say that either. I simply showed how deterrance works. In the mid 1980’s Detroit, two young ladies were robbed—they happened to be girlfriends of the leaders of Young Boys Inc. (YBI), a powerful drug gang. The police didn’t find the burglars at first, but YBI did. When the police did find them, each burglar had a gunshot to the foot, ankle, shin, knee, thigh and hip and had died painfully and slowly. Hellishly brutal, but also one hell of a deterrent.

I believe the death penalty is not a deterrent but could be. That was my point, not any of the ‘rabbit holes’ you tried to take the discussion into.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 6, 2006 4:00 PM
Comment #110705

jbod,

Not “rabbit holes”, just pointing out the holes in your argument.
Your points: You want the death penalty to be a detterent. Yet, you think it is actually the certain application of punishment that is the detterent. Therefore, the level of punishment needs to be high. What level of barbarity would be necessary? Does it have to be death? Waht about just beat the crap out of people with a cane?
Also, you say “make a decision, stick to it” Without regard to errors, which are a certainty in a political environment such as the DA’s office, then you don’t care if innocent people are executed, just so long as they were convicted? How is that detterence? Even if it were, is it worth the price?

Posted by: Dave at January 6, 2006 4:15 PM
Comment #110708

The death penalty IS NOT meant to be a deterrent to crime. IT IS TO PUNISH CRIME!
The way to deter crime is through teaching moral values. You know the stuff a lot of folks don’t think is necessary anymore.
Stealing is wrong.
Cheating is wrong.
Murder is wrong.
Lying is wrong.
Hate is wrong.
Laziness is wrong.
Honesty is good.
Working for what you get is good.
Kindness is good.
Love is good.
Respect for others is good.
Of course that wouldn’t be politically correct would it?

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 6, 2006 4:31 PM
Comment #110716

The title say it all. Could this be the ONE case (my emphasis). DNA testing would make this possibility even less possible. The irony is that a proof of innocence in this one case would show how nearly “fool proof” the system has become.

So we should test. But I will bet that if the DNA evidence supports the guilty verdict, we will hear nothing more of this case again. The one true innocent is the Holy Grail of the anti-death penalty movement. I don’t know if they will find it or even if it exists.

Posted by: Jack at January 6, 2006 4:40 PM
Comment #110722

For me, the effectiveness of the death penalty is NOT in the death penalty as deterrent factor, but in the fact that it prevents THAT person from ever committing such a crime or crimes again.

In the case of a man like Osama bin Laden: execute him not as a deterrent…death would not be a deterrent for him or his followers…but to eliminate the threat. If OBL is alive, there’s always the chance that someone will break him out of whatever prison we might put him in. There’s always that chance. And, considering how difficult it’s been to catch him in the first place, we don’t want to have to do it a second time.

In the case of Timothy McVeigh or Ted Bundy, it’s not so much the fear that someone will break them out, but that our government will make another “oops!” and release them. A lot of criminals are repeat criminals. A violent rapist may be in jail for 30 years, and as soon as he gets out he repeats the offense. Another person is hurt, and jail-time did absolutely nothing to deter him from doing it not only the first time, but also the second time even after learning that YES, he could be caught.

I value life. I understand that the death penalty is potentially used inappropriately (killing someone who did not commit THAT crime). However, I value the life of the victims, and those who have yet to become victims, more than I value the lives of the criminals. Our justice system isn’t perfect, and perhaps that is reason enough not to use the death penalty or use it only sparingly for those who are serial criminals, for which the proof is usually overwhelming once we finally catch them.

However, our justice system’s imperfection goes far beyond whether or not innocent people are being killed by the state. That is a great concern and travesty of justice, however so is letting loose a known criminal so that he or she can destroy more lives. While I’d certainly like to have the confidence to say we’re not killing innocent people; I’d also like the confidence to say we’re not loosing those who kill, rape or maim innocent people either.

Protecting the innocent from the state while still protecting the innocent from the guilty: it’s a fine line to walk, and one that no human civilization I’m aware of has ever mastered. I do know, however, that pat answers are not the solution.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 6, 2006 4:45 PM
Comment #110728
So we should test. But I will bet that if the DNA evidence supports the guilty verdict, we will hear nothing more of this case again. The one true innocent is the Holy Grail of the anti-death penalty movement. I don’t know if they will find it or even if it exists.

There have been convictions throughout history based on the flimsiest of evidence. The chance for a flawed conviction goes up substantially when the accused has little access to adequate legal counsel.

Some crimes do not produce substantial DNA evidence. Furthermore, the government is generally not eager to revisit evidence, especially when the convicted has already been killed.

I’ve worked in and studied the system in great detail, and I can understand how someone might feel (based on the high-profile crimes they hear about) that our system is nearly foolproof.

It simply isn’t. The decision of a jury is almost always final, and a jury is likely going to be biased against he accused from the beginning.

Obviously, most people who are charged with crimes are guilty of committing them. However, the risks of an incorrect outcome are not zero. There are cases where appeals courts will not revisit cases, even when someone else has confessed to the crime … only because the court finds that the jury has some slim basis for believing the convicted actually committed the crime.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 6, 2006 4:55 PM
Comment #110730

Ron—

The death penalty IS NOT meant to be a deterrent to crime. IT IS TO PUNISH CRIME!

…and are you under the impression that 100% of the murder cases that go through our system are decided correctly?

Posted by: mattLaw at January 6, 2006 4:56 PM
Comment #110731

tony,

“Some who die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Don’t be so quick to deal out death.”
— Gandalf

Cute reference. And the statement itself does seem quite wise, out of context. However, in reality it was a plot device. Gollum (the one who deserved death) was an important character who needed to live to the end to destroy the ring. The scene where, after trying to murder Frodo & Samwise, Gollum bites off Frodo’s finger and falls to his own doom, taking the ring with him, is one of poetic justice and climax. Without the scene where Gandalf tells Frodo not to wish death on Gollum, it would have been more difficult for the reader to understand why Frodo was against Samwise doing that very thing after Gollum had given them so much trouble.

In fiction it works, however in the real world it would have been just as likely, if not more so, in the same scenario for Gollum to successfully kill Frodo and Samwise and add two more murders to his repertoire. Which Gandalf would sorely have regretted without any doubt.

Too bad the real world doesn’t tie up as nicely as a well-written fictional universe, but it doesn’t.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 6, 2006 4:57 PM
Comment #110733

Ron,

No, what you said is absolutely politically correct. Except laziness I would categorize more as “not good” than “wrong” :-)

Stay away from the dark side Anakin… Come, join us, be a Jedi again! There’s still hope…

Posted by: Dave at January 6, 2006 4:59 PM
Comment #110742

mattLaw,

“There are cases where appeals courts will not revisit cases, even when someone else has confessed to the crime … only because the court finds that the jury has some slim basis for believing the convicted actually committed the crime.”

Are these death penalty cases, or imprisonment?

Posted by: Stephanie at January 6, 2006 5:05 PM
Comment #110745
Are these death penalty cases, or imprisonment?

Both.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 6, 2006 5:06 PM
Comment #110746

Dave,

Teaching it is what’s not politically correct nowadays, not believing it.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 6, 2006 5:08 PM
Comment #110749

mattLaw,

So, death penalty sentences are being carried out even after somebody else confessed to the crime?

Posted by: Stephanie at January 6, 2006 5:16 PM
Comment #110754

Dave:

You really have me wondering if you actually read the posts I write. You jump to so many conclusions each time that its getting tiresome.

I’ll correct you once more:

You want the death penalty to be a detterent

Again, never said that. I said that it CAN be a deterrent, but isn’t.

you think it is actually the certain application of punishment that is the detterent.

This is the one conclusion that you reached that is correct. When people know what the results of their actions will be, they will judge whether take those actions. In the realm of drunk driving, we’ve allowed so much plea bargaining that people recognize the possibility that they might just get off. So the deterrent factor is lessened. If the penalty for drunk driving was fixed and unchangeable, and had an appropriate degree of harshness, some people would still drink and drive, but the number would decrease.

then you don’t care if innocent people are executed, just so long as they were convicted?

Once again, never said that. Didn’t even HINT at that one. And if you looked at the paragraph that statement was written in, you might have gleaned the context of it, rather than your wildly incorrect assumption.

“I didn’t speak to what crimes should be covered under the death penalty. I even stated that I’m not really a proponent of the death penalty. But I am a proponent of making decisions, rather than rehashing them every time an execution comes up.”

Many times when someone comes up for execution, the question is not of their guilt or innocence, but rather whether the death penalty should be administered. I’m saying make the decision in advance about whether the death penalty is an acceptable sentence for a particular crime—don’t reargue that point with each situation that comes up.

This has nothing to do with your claim that I’d support executing innocent people. Of course, guilt or innocence is the most important aspect of ANY trial. The guilty should be punished and the innocent should not be.

In fact, you’d have known I felt that way had you seen my comment that I am mostly in line with the sentiment that the “death penalty is morally acceptable but is not applied properly or without error; therefore it should not be used.”

Now, how do you arrive at your conclusion that I wouldn’t care about innocent people being executed having read that statement? The only thing I can think is that you didn’t read it.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 6, 2006 5:27 PM
Comment #110759

joe—

In the realm of drunk driving, we’ve allowed so much plea bargaining that people recognize the possibility that they might just get off. So the deterrent factor is lessened. If the penalty for drunk driving was fixed and unchangeable, and had an appropriate degree of harshness, some people would still drink and drive, but the number would decrease.

In my opinion, you’re overestimating the influence of a potential punishment for violation of law and you’re greatly underestimating the fact that many people simply believe they will not be caught.

It is extremely difficult to get away with murdering someone you know, and yet it is attempted fairly often.

Many times when someone comes up for execution, the question is not of their guilt or innocence, but rather whether the death penalty should be administered. I’m saying make the decision in advance about whether the death penalty is an acceptable sentence for a particular crime—don’t reargue that point with each situation that comes up.

I’m a little confused by what you mean here. In any criminal trial, there are going to be multiple questions of LAW that arise, and those questions can be reconsidered on appeal. With death sentences, certain other variables come into play (such as the necessity of an aggravating circumstance) and those can further be considered within the appeals process.

Each of these points will be case-specific and must be re-litigated in each case. Sure, non-legal questions may arise within the public, such as whether or not someone deserves clemency. Within the criminal system, however, I’m not sure what you’re talking about when you talk about this question of the punishment being “acceptable” being reconsidered over and over.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 6, 2006 5:41 PM
Comment #110761

mattLaw

…and are you under the impression that 100% of the murder cases that go through our system are decided correctly?


That’s why death penalty case need to one time through the apeals process. To make sure no errors were made.

BTW, I AM satying away from the dark side. That’s why I’m a Conservitive.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 6, 2006 5:50 PM
Comment #110765
That’s why death penalty case need to one time through the apeals process. To make sure no errors were made.

Appeals are generally to review questions of law decided by the lower court. Appeals courts rarely overturn any findings of FACT, those decided by the jury.

It would be great to believe that the appeals courts catch 100% of the errors that exist, but it is very unlikely that’s the case.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 6, 2006 5:54 PM
Comment #110767

mattLaw,

“I’m a little confused by what you mean here. In any criminal trial, there are going to be multiple questions of LAW that arise, and those questions can be reconsidered on appeal.”
-emphasis added

I think what joe is saying that there should NOT be “questions of law” raised with each case, that the questions of law should be settled prior to a case and not be case specific. It’s not like murder is such an ambiguous crime.

I think joe is talking about what COULD be, not what IS.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 6, 2006 5:59 PM
Comment #110775
It would be great to believe that the appeals courts catch 100% of the errors that exist, but it is very unlikely that’s the case.

That Matt, I think we all would agree on.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 6, 2006 6:40 PM
Comment #110786

Matt:

It seems to me that even when the law is clear, the death penalty itself is what gets debated. For instance, Tookie Williams was found guilty by a jury of his peers. From what I’ve read, there was little evidence in the appeals that would have led someone to believe he was innocent. Some say he rehabilitated in jail, while others say he was anything but a model prisoner.

A large part of the discussion before his execution was whether he should be put to death. In my mind, this was already decided on the merits of the case. The case met death penalty requirements, the appropriate appeals were denied, and the legal issues decided.

Yet the discussion of whether the death penalty should be used still came up. I’m just saying that if a case has gone through all that, then lets not rehash the NON-legal part of it. The death penalty is legal and has been ruled on.
All guilt/innocence etc decisions should get their due diligence of course.

It seems to me akin to a teacher telling a student that an 89 is an A minus. When the kid gets the test back, he tries to get the 89 to be an A. Just doesnt work that way.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 6, 2006 7:25 PM
Comment #110788

—-
I AM satying away from the dark side. That’s why I’m a Conservitive.
—-

Maybe it’d hit better if you reworked the puchline…

;)

Posted by: tony at January 6, 2006 7:34 PM
Comment #110791
Yet the discussion of whether the death penalty should be used still came up. I’m just saying that if a case has gone through all that, then lets not rehash the NON-legal part of it. The death penalty is legal and has been ruled on.

You know - thats exactly how I feel about slavery. It was legal - it was ruled on AND YET people just wouldn’t let it go would they. And no look where we are…

Man - already been ruled on…worst logic ever.

HEY! all you anti-abortion people - its already been ruled - so shut up already!

Posted by: justin at January 6, 2006 8:10 PM
Comment #110794

—-
“Some who die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Don�t be so quick to deal out death.”
� Gandalf
—-

I think Jesus would’ve concurred.

Also - to the above post (I think it was Ron) - when is it the business of the government to punish people? The purpose of government is to prevent and/or correct anti-social behavior. The goal should be deterrence, and if the punishment works for that, then it’s a sound principle. With convicted criminals - it’s the goal to rehabilitate or remove problem citizens from society. But we all know that the death penalty does not work as a deterrent… it’s costly and doesn’t fit with any long term strategy.

Posted by: tony at January 6, 2006 8:44 PM
Comment #110797

Stephanie-

I think what joe is saying that there should NOT be “questions of law” raised with each case, that the questions of law should be settled prior to a case and not be case specific. It’s not like murder is such an ambiguous crime.

…but is that what he meant? That’s simply impossible.

Questions of law are things like: “Was this evidence properly admitted?” Did the defendant have adequate counsel? Basically, “did the trial court judge make any reversible errors?”

This is what the appeals process is.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 6, 2006 8:57 PM
Comment #110799

Joe—

Yet the discussion of whether the death penalty should be used still came up. I’m just saying that if a case has gone through all that, then lets not rehash the NON-legal part of it. The death penalty is legal and has been ruled on.

I see what you’re saying, but you’re talking about an ambiguous quality that exists outside of the system. People will probably always debate whether or not someone deserves death. Attitudes as to whether an inmate ‘deserves’ death will change, based on their age, health, and actions taken in prison since conviction.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 6, 2006 9:00 PM
Comment #110803

I cannot really believe some comments… possibly a light hearted approach to the fact that an innocent person was killed by the state is a way to deal with it… however… it leaves me with a couple of questions.

1) IF an innocent person if convicted of a crime doesn’t that mean that the guilty person got away with it?

2)”Killing ‘em all and letting God sort ‘em out.” is cute and I have used the expression myself… but… if there isn’t a God, then there is no one to sort out the loss of a precious life that was taken wrongly.

NOTE: The above type of people also will say that even if there isn’t a God, if you live as if there is one you will still lead a good life, so there is nothing wrong…

*This is assuming that you did have to get a divorce to get away from a bad marriage…
*Assuming that you aren’t homsexual and demonized and persecuted from trying to enjoy your life.
*A cavaliar attitude like that justifies a lot of collateral damage in life.

I had hoped for a bit deeper respect for life and the taking of a life…

But, I think that it proves to me once again, that for some, their only concern for life is from the time of inception to the time of birth…. after that it is an easily dismissed “category”.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 6, 2006 9:15 PM
Comment #110809

The problem with the death penalty is the problem with any system of law enforcement.

If the death penalty is murder by the state, than imprisonment is kidnapping by the state and a fine is robbery by the state.

The system of appeals is so complete that it is unlikely an innocent man or woman would be executed. DNA evidence makes it even more unlikely.

The death penalty may be a just punishment for the most terrible crimes. Life without parole tends to be about 11 years in the real world. Even the really bad guys are given way too much respect.

As for deterrence, the studies vary. It is not deterrence that is the most useful, but the bargaining power. Bad guys are more likely to give up their accomplices if they can be threatened with death.

Posted by: jack at January 6, 2006 9:47 PM
Comment #110812

—-
As for deterrence, the studies vary. It is not deterrence that is the most useful, but the bargaining power. Bad guys are more likely to give up their accomplices if they can be threatened with death.
—-

You’ve been watching too much TV. The majority of homicides are single person acts, mostly involving people that they knew. They are a few high profile cases of groups involved in homicide, but those are few.

Also, a life sentence without parole is usually the sentence when a jury is unwilling to hand out a death sentence.

Posted by: tony at January 6, 2006 9:56 PM
Comment #110813
The system of appeals is so complete that it is unlikely an innocent man or woman would be executed. DNA evidence makes it even more unlikely.

I don’t entirely buy this, though I wish it were true. Sometimes juries are competent. Unfortunately, sometimes they are not. Jury members are susceptible to prejudice, apathy, and to the pressure of other jury members.

Cases are not retried on appeal, and factual findings are rarely revisited.

People have been convicted based solely on eyewitness testimony, notoriously unreliable. People confess to crimes they did not commit.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 6, 2006 10:01 PM
Comment #110814
Also, a life sentence without parole is usually the sentence when a jury is unwilling to hand out a death sentence.

…and juries are more likely to give LWOP if the option exists.

This has left some jurisdictions (such as Texas) to withhold the option. Juries must choose to execute the convicted, or face the fact that he may be back on the street at some point.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 6, 2006 10:03 PM
Comment #110816

Bad guys are also more likely to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty. How many have actually pled guilty and received the death penalty?

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 6, 2006 10:10 PM
Comment #110837

tony,

“With convicted criminals - it’s the goal to rehabilitate or remove problem citizens from society. But we all know that the death penalty does not work as a deterrent… it’s costly and doesn’t fit with any long term strategy.”

You say it doesn’t work as a deterrent (and that it doesn’t work as rehabilitation is obvious), but it certainly removes problem citizens from society, thus it’s use.

Do you honestly believe that somehow we can convince people not to commit crimes?

Posted by: Stephanie at January 7, 2006 12:23 AM
Comment #110839

mattLaw,

Questions of law are things like: “Was this evidence properly admitted?” Did the defendant have adequate counsel? Basically, “did the trial court judge make any reversible errors?”

This is what the appeals process is.

*sigh* Knowing how it works and agree it is right are two different things. I understand well enough how it works, but that doesn’t mean I agree with it or that I have to.

If a cop in my neighborhood walks past a car and smells something from its trunk, opens up the trunk (illegally) and finds a dead body. I don’t care whether or not the cop violated the “rights” of the criminal; I care whether or not a murder is taken off the streets.

As a society, we have a strong belief that protecting the innocent from the state is all-important, to the point that we often neglect protecting the innocent from the guilty. That’s what I have a problem with.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 7, 2006 12:37 AM
Comment #110855
If a cop in my neighborhood walks past a car and smells something from its trunk, opens up the trunk (illegally) and finds a dead body. I don’t care whether or not the cop violated the “rights” of the criminal; I care whether or not a murder is taken off the streets.

That’s unfortunate.

First of all, such evidence (a dead body) is rarely excluded, even with a Fourth Amendment violation.

However, I take serious issue with not caring about the Constitutional rights of the criminal. Accused persons (often simply “bad people”) are the one’s who must challenge the practices of the government.

If a police officer illegally searches your car and finds nothing, your rights have been violated. However, without a criminal prosecution against you there’s very little that you would be able to do to correct that violation. The police have a reason NOT to violate the Fourth amendment, however. If they do so, they risk having evidence procured in that search tossed at trial.

Protecting the rights of those ‘bad’ individuals goes a long way to protecting ALL of our constitutional rights.

As a society, we have a strong belief that protecting the innocent from the state is all-important, to the point that we often neglect protecting the innocent from the guilty. That’s what I have a problem with.

It’s that pesky Constitution, isn’t it?

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 1:40 AM
Comment #110945

mattLaw

Appeals are generally to review questions of law decided by the lower court. Appeals courts rarely overturn any findings of FACT, those decided by the jury.

So your saying that these guys are convicted because there are enough facts to support a conviction. And I sure hope that’s why they’re convicted. But then even though they have been proven guilty, they need to spend the rest of their worthless lives in prison on our dimes just because there minght be a .000000000001% chance that they’re innocent. Give me a break. These assholes forefited their right to live when they violated the right of their victim to live by murdering them.

It would be great to believe that the appeals courts catch 100% of the errors that exist, but it is very unlikely that’s the case.

If the defendant has a decent lawyer ALL errors will be brought up. And most likely a few made up ones.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 7, 2006 9:27 AM
Comment #110973

Ron-

So your saying that these guys are convicted because there are enough facts to support a conviction. And I sure hope that’s why they’re convicted. But then even though they have been proven guilty, they need to spend the rest of their worthless lives in prison on our dimes just because there minght be a .000000000001% chance that they’re innocent. Give me a break. These assholes forefited their right to live when they violated the right of their victim to live by murdering them.

No, that’s not what I said. My point was that jury decisions will usually stand even if they are based on little or circumstantial evidence. Yes, sometimes juries weigh all evidence fairly and do their jobs. Sometimes, they don’t.

The rest of your statement assumes they’re guilty anyway, but that isn’t the point.

If the defendant has a decent lawyer ALL errors will be brought up. And most likely a few made up ones.

IF they have decent counsel, then many of the possible errors will probably be considered–but not necessarily any “errors” made by the jury. Lots or people do not get (nor can they afford) “decent counsel,” by the way.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 1:56 PM
Comment #111006

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/06/AR2006010601843.html

Another DNA/death penalty case, this time one that will be heard by the Supreme Court and the inmate is still alive.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 7, 2006 4:05 PM
Comment #111009

Yes, that’s a case where police refused to follow other leads and information offered by the public, where witnesses had heard someone else confess to the crime, and where the circuit court of appeals still refused to reconsider the DNA evidence (some which was later shown to have been “mishandled”) because they didn’t think the jury’s decision was completely irrational.

These kinds of mistakes CAN and DO happen.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 4:10 PM
Comment #111016

Lots or people do not get (nor can they afford) “decent counsel,” by the way.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 01:56 PM

Convicted murderers with the death penalty seem to get them.

Ok yaall want to use DNA to get these worthless pieces of human waste out of the death penalty. So go ahead I don’t want an innocent person executed either. But what are yaall goina do when/if the DNA proves them guilty? Can we execute them then without yaall crying about it? Some how I doubt it.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 7, 2006 5:00 PM
Comment #111021

I’ve said it before on other threads dealing with the death penalty. But I reckon I’ll have to keep saying because some just don’t get it.
When someone committs murder they violate the right of their victim to live. By doing so the murderer forefits their right to live. They are given the death penalty for the purpose of punishing them for the crime of murder. Not to keep little Johnnie next door from murdering you.
A 20 year-old man rapes and kills a 10 year-old girl. They get his DNA off the victim. He is found guilty base on it and other evidence. Would yaall want to let this the most wothless piece of shit to ever come down the shute to live out his natural life? A good 50 years? Five times longer than his victims whole life? Yaall call that justice?

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 7, 2006 5:22 PM
Comment #111023
Convicted murderers with the death penalty seem to get them.

…and I’m sure evidence will be forthcoming from you that proves this claim.

Ok yaall want to use DNA to get these worthless pieces of human waste out of the death penalty.

Ummmm… .if the DNA gets them out of the death penalty, then they probably weren’t the correct “worthless piece of human waste” to begin with. That statement is illogical.

You’re greatly missing the point, anyway. Many have concern that the wrong person could be executed, a punishment that is irreversible. This doesn’t sound like a great concern to you. Perhaps you’d feel differently if it was yourself or a loved one on the line.

So go ahead I don’t want an innocent person executed either. But what are yaall goina do when/if the DNA proves them guilty? Can we execute them then without yaall crying about it? Some how I doubt it.

Personally, I think the death penalty is always wrong … but I support the State’s right to determine its usage, as I believe it was not intended to be classified under the 8th amendment as cruel and unusual punishment.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 5:28 PM
Comment #111024

It is ludicrous not test any evidence -DNA or otherwise - to see if a man is actually innocent on deathrow. It is also ludicrous to deny justice for any heinous crime of murder.

Certainly families have a right to discover if an executed convict was innocent as well. So what if it embarrasses the prosecutor. Again, just because one innocent man was executed due to inferior technology during his trial or before the execution is no reason to end the death penalty.

Posted by: Theway2k at January 7, 2006 5:28 PM
Comment #111026

Ron—

When someone committs murder they violate the right of their victim to live. By doing so the murderer forefits their right to live. They are given the death penalty for the purpose of punishing them for the crime of murder. Not to keep little Johnnie next door from murdering you.

The discussion here involves possible mistakes in the criminal process.

A 20 year-old man rapes and kills a 10 year-old girl. They get his DNA off the victim. He is found guilty base on it and other evidence. Would yaall want to let this the most wothless piece of shit to ever come down the shute to live out his natural life? A good 50 years? Five times longer than his victims whole life? Yaall call that justice?

Life in prison isn’t a walk in the park. I personally believe that it is wrong for the State to take the life of a prisoner. I respect your opinion, however. Do you respect mine?

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 5:31 PM
Comment #111030
Certainly families have a right to discover if an executed convict was innocent as well. So what if it embarrasses the prosecutor. Again, just because one innocent man was executed due to inferior technology during his trial or before the execution is no reason to end the death penalty.

One that we would know of. It doesn’t make any sense to assume that we WOULD know, because this evidence is often not tested.

Look at what occurred in Illinois. The governor instituted a moratorium on the death penalty when a couple of students (I believe they were journalism students) uncovered evidence bringing into question SEVERAL convictions of those on death row in the state–completely exonerating one of them.

Am I to believe that this is the way the system is ‘supposed’ to work? Hope a couple of students take up an investigation on your case?

I simply can’t believe that some are willing to accept mistakes–and I assume they would feel differently if such a mistake immediately involved themselves or a family member.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 5:37 PM
Comment #111037

mattLaw
If I didn’t I wouldn’t argue with you.
I most likely call you some kind of name and leave you alone.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 7, 2006 5:55 PM
Comment #111043

mattLaw,

“However, I take serious issue with not caring about the Constitutional rights of the criminal.”

And I take serious issue with releasing a criminal, who goes and commits similiar if not worse crimes again, on technicalities. You say you think people would react differently if they were the ones wrongly accused… But, have you thought about the people wrongly hurt by a criminal after he or she was released on a technicality? There’s far more victims to relate to than there are wrongly convicted “criminals.”

And that’s the glory of our justice system. (sarcasm intended)

There are two sides of this issue, one who values the rights of criminals above victims, and one who values the rights of victims above criminals. I’m of the latter orientation. I don’t have a problem with criminals having rights. I don’t have a problem with due process. I have a problem with those rights and due process trumping any other consideration.

Like I said, understanding how it works is different than agreeing with it.

“It’s that pesky Constitution, isn’t it?”

The Constitution is a very important document, however, it is not perfect. The difficulties protecting the innocent from the state that we’re having now are not nearly the same as the difficulties the Founding Fathers faced under Brittish law, which is why they wrote the laws the way they did.

The Founding Fathers enacted a great experiment, wherein proving guilt by a set standard of rules was more important than preventing the guilty from committing more crimes (at least, that’s how it’s acted upon currently). IMO, that experiment has failed, because we’ve taken it too far. Justice in the time of our Founding Fathers was different than it is now. And while, there were innocents killed (despite following that standard of rules) there was also less crime, because people were more willing and able to ignore the code in extreme situations.

Use the Constitution as a tool. Just don’t take it completely out of context when you do. Unfortunately, our legal system has done exactly that. Criminals have more rights than victims, and I sincerely doubt that’s what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 7, 2006 6:10 PM
Comment #111048

mattLaw,

Perhaps the thing you don’t understand is that being found innocent in a court of law or in an appeals court doesn’t mean that the person didn’t commit the crime?

Posted by: Stephanie at January 7, 2006 6:20 PM
Comment #111053

Stephanie
Very well stated.
The rights of crime victims have been being ignored for too long. When a rape victim is the one put on trial insted of her accused rapist there is a serious problem.
I beleive that the accused has a right to a trial by jury. That’s one of the reasons I don’t try to get out of jury duty. I believe that they have other rights until found guilty in a court of law. I believe that these rights need to be protected. But not at the expense of the victim.
Someone stated that it cost more to execute a murderer than to keep them in prison for the rest of their life. The only reason for that is the 20 to 25 years of appeals before the death penalty is finally carried out.
Cut this down to once through the appeals process and it’s bye bye asshole, and I believe it’ll be as cheap or a lot cheaper than life.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 7, 2006 6:43 PM
Comment #111054
And I take serious issue with releasing a criminal, who goes and commits similiar if not worse crimes again, on technicalities. You say you think people would react differently if they were the ones wrongly accused… But, have you thought about the people wrongly hurt by a criminal after he or she was released on a technicality? There’s far more victims to relate to than there are wrongly convicted “criminals.”

I study the law, and I take constitutional rights very seriously … so it is difficult for me to understand how someone can write off those rights as mere “technicalities.” We’re not talking about someone forgetting to dot an ‘I’ or cross a ‘T.’

Of course I’ve thought about those people. I don’t wish for anyone to become the target of crime, but I also do not wish to see our rights under the Constitution (put there for very real concerns possessed by the Founding Fathers) trampled in the name of “security.”

Besides, if you did some research into the exclusionary rule you’d find that such situations are incredibly uncommon.

There are two sides of this issue, one who values the rights of criminals above victims, and one who values the rights of victims above criminals. I’m of the latter orientation.

I’m find that characterization unfair and illogical. The Bill of Rights protects the individual from actions of the STATE. Because I believe those rights (both yours and mine) are of utmost importance (and because our system of government demands it), I will defend the rights of EVERYONE from violation by the STATE.

I don’t have a problem with criminals having rights. I don’t have a problem with due process. I have a problem with those rights and due process trumping any other consideration.

…and they don’t. There are a million court-developed exceptions to these rules.

Use the Constitution as a tool. Just don’t take it completely out of context when you do. Unfortunately, our legal system has done exactly that. Criminals have more rights than victims, and I sincerely doubt that’s what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

I’m kind of unsure as to what you’re basing any of this on. I’ve studied a great deal of criminal process, and I’ve worked within the criminal justice system.

The statement “criminals have more rights than victims” is catchy, but it doesn’t make sense. Everyone has the same rights as they relate to the government.

It seems as if you want to pay lip-service to the Constitution, but are ultimately not concerned with it’s violation.

Again … I implore you to look into this. Cases are very rarely dismissed for constitutional violations, and those cases mostly involve non-violent crimes (usually involving drugs).

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 6:44 PM
Comment #111055

Stephanie–

Perhaps the thing you don’t understand is that being found innocent in a court of law or in an appeals court doesn’t mean that the person didn’t commit the crime?

Of course I understand that. How is that relevant, though?

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 6:46 PM
Comment #111057

Ron–

The rights of crime victims have been being ignored for too long. When a rape victim is the one put on trial insted of her accused rapist there is a serious problem.

See, I’m wondering if you guys have any concrete examples of this egregious behavior you believe is so rampant.

Most (perhaps all?) states have rules of evidence that prohibit introducing the sexual activity of a rape victim, unless such characteristics are brought in by the prosecution in some way first.

Of course, that must be tempered with the constitutional right for the accused to face his accuser.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 6:49 PM
Comment #111071

mattLaw,

…so it is difficult for me to understand how someone can write off those rights as mere “technicalities.”

When someone is suspected of a crime they committed, but not caught because catching them would violate their rights, that’s a technicality. When a man is convicted of a murder he committed, but let loose on appeal because the prosecutor made a mistake with a piece of evidence, that’s a technicality. What is so difficult to understand?

“We’re not talking about someone forgetting to dot an ‘I’ or cross a ‘T.’”

No, we’re talking about someone who broke the law, but isn’t prosecuted or punished because a rule was broken in catching them.

The difference here is that you’re assuming that if a person cannot be convicted by following the rules they are innocent, which is legally true, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t commit the crime.

Besides, if you did some research into the exclusionary rule you’d find that such situations are incredibly uncommon.

You just said, “In any criminal trial, there are going to be multiple questions of LAW that arise, and those questions can be reconsidered on appeal.”

Which means (correct me if I’m wrong) that the question isn’t whether or not the person is GUILTY, that’s already been decided, it’s whether the rules were followed. Thus, a guilty person (i.e. one who committed a crime) could get their guilty verdict overturned on the basis of a point of law, irregardless of the fact that they did actually commit the crime.

That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.

“I’m find that characterization unfair and illogical.”

I’m not surprised. However, the STATE also has the responsibility to protect it’s law-abiding citizens from CRIMINALS!!! That is something we don’t do very well and THAT is what I have a problem with. I have no fear of the state, because I haven’t committed any crimes (except occasional speeding when I’m paying too much attention to the road and not enough to my spedometer). Unfortunately, most of the criminals I’ve met don’t have very much fear of the state either, because they get away with too many of their crimes to think they’ll get caught on their next criminal act.

“Everyone has the same rights as they relate to the government.”

Not when the criminal gets away with breaking the law and the victim is stuck with the damage. You seem to consider criminal acts or the accusation of criminal acts as some intellectual puzzle. These actions have consequences that effect people NOT involved in the legalities…that’s why we have the laws in the first place!

Have you ever looked into the eyes of a victim? Have you ever seen the pain there? Do you have any idea what it feels like to know that the state COULD have protected this person, but that the rights of the criminal took precedence over preventing another crime from taking place? Try it some time. It’s a sobering experience.

It seems as if you want to pay lip-service to the Constitution, but are ultimately not concerned with it’s violation.

Call it lip-service if you’d like. Perhaps it makes you feel better. I value the Constitution, but if I have to make a choice, I’d rather the Constitution be violated than a law-abiding citizen. If it’s any consolation, the choice isn’t mine to make. I just have to pick up the pieces after the state fails to protect those I love.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 7, 2006 7:28 PM
Comment #111072

mattLaw,

“Of course I understand that. How is that relevant, though?”

The relevance is that of the state setting criminals back on the street to harrass and harm law-abiding citizens. Oh, but apparently that’s not very important to you.

“See, I’m wondering if you guys have any concrete examples of this egregious behavior you believe is so rampant.”

Have you ever heard a presecutor say, “This guy’s done this before, we just couldn’t prove it?” I have. So yes, I do have my own experience with the legal system to fall back on (sorry, no links, child molestation is so common it has to be serial to get media coverage). Luckily, we were stubborn enough to get the “deliquent” verdict the criminal deserved. A few months under house-arrest, some counciling of questionable value considering the total lack of remorse, and a blip on his record that won’t show in a few more years was the result. The emotional scars of the victim, however, will last a lifetime.

This criminal’s right to privacy and due process interferred with my right to protect my son, and yeah, I have a problem with that.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 7, 2006 7:43 PM
Comment #111074
When someone is suspected of a crime they committed, but not caught because catching them would violate their rights, that’s a technicality. When a man is convicted of a murder he committed, but let loose on appeal because the prosecutor made a mistake with a piece of evidence, that’s a technicality. What is so difficult to understand?

I don’t view constitutional rights as “technicalities.” Such exclusions work to insure that the government acts constitutionally.

Please feel free to advocate another method by which we might insure that constitutional rights are not violated. I’m fulling willing to consider alternatives, and you wouldn’t be the first person to suggest adopting them.

The difference here is that you’re assuming that if a person cannot be convicted by following the rules they are innocent, which is legally true, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t commit the crime.

No, I’m not assuming such a thing. I fully understand the difference between the terms guilty, not guilty, and innocent.

Which means (correct me if I’m wrong) that the question isn’t whether or not the person is GUILTY, that’s already been decided, it’s whether the rules were followed. Thus, a guilty person (i.e. one who committed a crime) could get their guilty verdict overturned on the basis of a point of law, irregardless of the fact that they did actually commit the crime.

I said that questions of fact are rarely reconsidered. To be fair, though, being found guilty by a jury does not necessarily mean that the person committed the crime (though the vast majority of the time, of course they did).

I’m not surprised. However, the STATE also has the responsibility to protect it’s law-abiding citizens from CRIMINALS!!! That is something we don’t do very well and THAT is what I have a problem with.

We actually don’t do a terrible job of it. Crime rates are ever decreasing, no? The system is completely DOMINATED by drug crime, is it not?

I have no fear of the state, because I haven’t committed any crimes (except occasional speeding when I’m paying too much attention to the road and not enough to my spedometer). Unfortunately, most of the criminals I’ve met don’t have very much fear of the state either, because they get away with too many of their crimes to think they’ll get caught on their next criminal act.

…and it’s possible that you don’t “fear” interference from the State because you don’t have to deal with interference from the state, isn’t it?

Have you ever looked into the eyes of a victim? Have you ever seen the pain there? Do you have any idea what it feels like to know that the state COULD have protected this person, but that the rights of the criminal took precedence over preventing another crime from taking place? Try it some time. It’s a sobering experience.

Yes, I’ve met and talked to victims. I have friends and family members who have been victims of crime.

I can’t say that I’m aware of numerous cases in which the “rights of the criminal took precedence over preventing another crime,” because it simply doesn’t happen often.

Call it lip-service if you’d like. Perhaps it makes you feel better. I value the Constitution, but if I have to make a choice, I’d rather the Constitution be violated than a law-abiding citizen. If it’s any consolation, the choice isn’t mine to make. I just have to pick up the pieces after the state fails to protect those I love.

…and violations of the Constitution hold up ALL THE TIME in court.

I’m sorry that you interpret my belief that the Constitution must be protected as some desire to see criminals go unpunished, because the facts couldn’t be further from the truth. I simply realize that the protection of certain amendments (such as the 4th and 5th) often MUST be fought on the behalf of criminals because the system as it exists today makes it impossible to keep the government in check otherwise.

I would be all for an alternative system if it meant that those rights would be appropriately protected.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 7:56 PM
Comment #111075
The relevance is that of the state setting criminals back on the street to harrass and harm law-abiding citizens. Oh, but apparently that’s not very important to you.

Stephanie, you’re going to have to realize that we’re communicating about this topic on an online message board. I don’t know your personal history, and of course you don’t know mine. I’m attempting to remain civil, and I’d wish you’d try the same–even though you disagree with me.

Have you ever heard a presecutor say, “This guy’s done this before, we just couldn’t prove it?” I have. So yes, I do have my own experience with the legal system to fall back on (sorry, no links, child molestation is so common it has to be serial to get media coverage).

…but we would never desire a system that put suspects in jail WITHOUT proof, would we? Please remember that police officers, investigators, and prosecutors are human, and they do make mistakes. Sometimes, they even act unethically. It happens.

This criminal’s right to privacy and due process interferred with my right to protect my son, and yeah, I have a problem with that.

I’m sorry to hear about your son. My younger sister was molested and that person was NEVER charged. She suffers from effects of that trauma to this day.

I understand that it’s difficult to look beyond your personal experience (a situation in which you probably are absolutely certain of whom committed the crime against your son) but think about those situations where adults are accused of such crimes and they did NOT commit them (you undoubtedly know what I’m talking about). How would those peoples’ lives be affected, without due process to protect them?

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 8:04 PM
Comment #111076

mattLaw,

Perhaps I’ve misunderstood your position. Please answer the following question to clarify:

Do you believe it is okay to release someone who committed a crime back onto the streets when they were found guilty due to an act that violated their constitutional rights, because protecting the constitutional rights of everyone is more important to you than protecting the next victim of the criminal?

Posted by: Stephanie at January 7, 2006 8:12 PM
Comment #111077
Do you believe it is okay to release someone who committed a crime back onto the streets when they were found guilty due to an act that violated their constitutional rights, because protecting the constitutional rights of everyone is more important to you than protecting the next victim of the criminal?

You’re basically asking if I believe someone should be incarcerated in violation of our system of law. No, of course not.

Are you asking specifically about the exclusionary rule? Yes, I suppose use of the exclusionary rule because I do not see a viable, alternative method of protecting against constitutional violations.

I also know that, in practice, violent criminals very rarely ‘get off’ because of evidence exclusion.

How do you suggest that the constitutional rights of American citizens be protected in this context? Consider the 4th amendment. There are certainly other possible venues for enforcement.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 8:20 PM
Comment #111078

mattLaw
Back about 9 years ago I served on the jury for a rape case. The victim was 16 years-old. She was raped after she went swiming in the city pool with some friends.
The defence attorney brought up every thing from the swimsuit she wore to the fact that she talked to the defended at the pool. He questioned the clothes she wore when she left the pool. He asked her about her sex life. Brought up her running away from home when she was 12. She went to her grandparents after a fight with her mother and returned home within an hour. Some running away. he questioned her about sexual fanicies. All trying to prove that she was a whore and asked to be raped.
If this aint putting the victim on trial, what is?

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 7, 2006 8:21 PM
Comment #111080

Ron—

I’ll repeat what I said above:

Most (perhaps all?) states have rules of evidence that prohibit introducing the sexual activity of a rape victim, unless such characteristics are brought in by the prosecution in some way first.

Of course, that must be tempered with the constitutional right for the accused to face his accuser.

Without being there or knowing the facts, I can’t tell you what went on. The federal rules of evidence prohibit character evidence related to the sexual proclivities of the victim. As far as I know, most states have adopted similar rules (though I have no idea when they did so).

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 8:33 PM
Comment #111082

mattLaw,

The relevance seems blatently obvious to me. Thus the snide remark (for which I do apologize, it was inappropriate), but it’s becoming more and more obvious that we’re talking about two different things.

I’m talking about those who committed crimes, but get away with them. You’re still talking about those who didn’t commit crimes, but are accused of them.

Both exist and one’s focus depends on one’s experience.

Of course I don’t want anyone falsely convicted of a criminal act and of course I want to ensure there are safe-guards in place to protect and release such people when a false conviction does occur. However, I also recognize that those safe-guards are going to be most frequently used by individuals who DID commit the criminal act of which they have been accused and thus it is also very important to ensure that while we do release the innocent, we retain the guilty.

I also realize that police officers, investigators and prosecutors are fallible. We all are, which is why a perfect judicial system is impossible. If we could obtain perfection on Earth, then crimes would most likely be done away with entirely before they were ever committed. However, that is obviously not the case.

Corruption is rampant. People are pursued, convicted and punished for no more than being disliked…DESPITE THE SAFE-GUARDS OUR LEGAL SYSTEM HAS IN PLACE!!! Which means that our legal system doesn’t actually do the job you’re saying we must retain it to do. In the end, those who are guilty and yet released are avoiding justice, without the guarantee that the innocent are left alone.

The price doesn’t seem the least bit worth it to me.

My point isn’t that due process isn’t necessary. It’s that it doesn’t work.

As for alternative solutions??? Mine would be nearly impossible to enact, because it involves throwwing out ALL precendence and starting from scratch.

Start with the basics:
Is killing another person wrong? Yes. Should we have a law against killing another person? Yes. Is it ever right to kill another person? Possibly. When is it right to kill another person? Self-defense, as one example. What constitutes self-defense? …

Nail it all down nice and tight. Take out the loop-holes. Set a definite, firm punishment.

The law should be something a common, every-day citizen can understand, not something so convoluted it takes an expert to figure out if you’ve even broken a law, because most people don’t have the time or the money to hire a lawyer before every possible legally-binding decision is made.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 7, 2006 8:44 PM
Comment #111084

mattLaw,

“You’re basically asking if I believe someone should be incarcerated in violation of our system of law. No, of course not.”

And I disagree. I do not believe that “our system of law” is more important than the people who will be hurt by the criminal.

“Are you asking specifically about the exclusionary rule?”

No, it’s more than the exclusionary rule. Does anybody have any idea how much evidence is destroyed while the investigators have to run around getting permission from the judge to go find it? How could we calculate something like that? A criminal usually gets a “head’s start,” because many crimes aren’t caught while “in-progress.” Some of our constitutional rights give these criminals much more time to cover their tracks. And that’s a problem.

Right now there is a serial rapist loose in my city. The cops currently have N-O-T-H-I-N-G to indicate who he is versus all the other similiar “contestants.” After all, “about 6 feet, caucasian, brown hair” doesn’t get you very far in this town. Neither does “owns or has access to a van.” I would be willing, despite the fact that it goes completely contrary to the constitution, to let the cops search my home for evidence to verify that my husband (who does fit the description) isn’t the criminal, if it allowed them to search the house of the criminal as well. Because: 1) I have nothing to hide, 2) I feel it is important to stop this man, and 3) I don’t think his rights are more important than stopping him.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 7, 2006 9:00 PM
Comment #111085
I’m talking about those who committed crimes, but get away with them. You’re still talking about those who didn’t commit crimes, but are accused of them.

No, when I talk about the exclusionary rule I’m talking about someone accused of a crime, whether they did it or not.

tart with the basics: Is killing another person wrong? Yes. Should we have a law against killing another person? Yes. Is it ever right to kill another person? Possibly. When is it right to kill another person? Self-defense, as one example. What constitutes self-defense? …

Nail it all down nice and tight. Take out the loop-holes. Set a definite, firm punishment.

The law should be something a common, every-day citizen can understand, not something so convoluted it takes an expert to figure out if you’ve even broken a law, because most people don’t have the time or the money to hire a lawyer before every possible legally-binding decision is made.

Stephanie, I think you’d be surprised by how straight-forward most criminal statutes are … and a murder statute would be the best example, because those are generally quite simple.

Criminal statutes generally are made up of different elements, and the jury is told that the prosecution must prove every element in order to convict. It becomes more complicated when dealing with evidence … and of course sometimes there’s simply no accounting for what went on in the jury room (take the OJ trial, for example).

I’m just having a difficult time approaching your argument because it seems like you’re talking about a variety of different things at once. There are obviously various different ways that someone may receive a new trial, or various reasons why someone is convicted of a lesser crime than they committed.

Obviously, some of these are just reality. The ‘gut feeling’ of an investigator doesn’t matter if they cannot produce evidence of wrongdoing.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 9:06 PM
Comment #111086

I think there are two issues here. First what do we do as a society to make sure the guilty receive a fair trial but are tried and sentenced. Second what do we do to make sure the innocent are not found guilty and if not really guilty what then? If we did a better job on the first one the second one would rarely be an issue.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 7, 2006 9:11 PM
Comment #111088
And I disagree. I do not believe that “our system of law” is more important than the people who will be hurt by the criminal.

…but we have to have a “system.” Society could not function without a system. Who would we place the power to punish and detain, without such a thing? Without a system of law, no law can be violated.

No, it’s more than the exclusionary rule. Does anybody have any idea how much evidence is destroyed while the investigators have to run around getting permission from the judge to go find it? How could we calculate something like that? A criminal usually gets a “head’s start,” because many crimes aren’t caught while “in-progress.” Some of our constitutional rights give these criminals much more time to cover their tracks. And that’s a problem.

Well … I don’t know what to say, except to suggest that you petition your elected officials to get rid of the 4th amendment to the Constitution. Why would the police want to search someone, without reason? If they have reason, they can obtain a warrant. The suspect is often not aware that this process is going on.

There are tons of exceptions to the warrant requirement, as well. Hot pursuit of a suspect does not require a warrant. Suspects can waive their 4th amendment rights (and they do constantly). Expectations of privacy generally do not exist in most places outside of the home.

Because: 1) I have nothing to hide, 2) I feel it is important to stop this man, and 3) I don’t think his rights are more important than stopping him.

…but stephanie, such law enforcement practice would NEVER work! Even if such a rapist had some sort of evidence of the crimes within his dwelling, he would undoubtedly be made aware of an impending search if the police were searching EVERY home.

It’s not as if you’re talking about a situation where the police actually know who is committing the crimes but can’t do anything. If they ‘knew,’ they would have enough evidence to obtain a warrant.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 9:20 PM
Comment #111090
I think there are two issues here. First what do we do as a society to make sure the guilty receive a fair trial but are tried and sentenced.

…and on the whole, we actually do quite a good job. Over 80% of prosecutions end in convictions.

Our biggest problem (in my opinion) is focusing too much police time, court time, and jail space on non-violent drug offenders. Reformed drug laws would allow the police to focus on those crimes that pose a greater threat to our society.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 7, 2006 9:23 PM
Comment #111093

I don’t disagree with you on the non-violent drug offender issue. I think there is a better way than prison.

Of those 80% does that include those overturned on appeal?

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 7, 2006 9:54 PM
Comment #111095

mattLaw,

“No, when I talk about the exclusionary rule I’m talking about someone accused of a crime, whether they did it or not.”

That was a statement of the general focus of our different discussions, not just about the exclusionary rule.

“Stephanie, I think you’d be surprised by how straight-forward most criminal statutes are…”

Says the lawyer. :-) Okay, here’s a for-instance, based on a real person’s experience devoid of identifiable information. There was a guy, a private investigator (someone who is generally more familiar with the law than your average citizen), who was looking into a crime the police had given up on. During his investigation he encountered a guy with a gun; the PI was a big strapping man in his prime, the guy with the gun was a “little, old man.” The PI, in his own self-defense, beat up the old man and was then tried with assault, the self-defense plea was thrown out and he was convicted. Personally, I’d have thought along the same lines of the PI, gun versus fists, gun is more dangerous.

Now, this granted isn’t murder. Murder laws are pretty cut and dry (don’t do it), especially when you’re talking intentional crimes (versus man slaughter, which is usually not intentional). But looking at the laws of the land as a whole, they are not nearly as straight-forward as many lawyers claim they are.

I’m just having a difficult time approaching your argument because it seems like you’re talking about a variety of different things at once.

I am. All under the heading of “Our Broken Legal System.”

“The ‘gut feeling’ of an investigator doesn’t matter if they cannot produce evidence of wrongdoing.”

NOTE TO CRIMINALS: Just destroy the evidence and you’ll be fine.

Too many criminals have already learned that lesson, sorry. That’s part of the problem.

I’m not saying convict without evidence, we just need to find better, clearer, quicker ways of obtaining the evidence BEFORE it’s destroyed.

“Society could not function without a system.”

Of course we have to have a system of law. That doesn’t mean we have to cling to a broken system.

“If they have reason, they can obtain a warrant.”

Unless politics gets in the way of the process. Or, the warrant may not do them any good if the evidence is destroyed while they went through the process. I don’t know it as fact, but I’ve been told by more than one police officer that they don’t actually have access to a judge 24/7.

“The suspect is often not aware that this process is going on.”

Funny. Considering they’re aware they committed a crime (in cases where they are not aware…?), it should be rather obvious to find ways to hide it.

“…but stephanie, such law enforcement practice would NEVER work!”

*sigh* I know it wouldn’t work. That wasn’t the point. The point was to show my personal priority of catching the criminals. But, on the other hand, it did work when there weren’t so many of us. It has been used and it did work…right around the time the Constitution was written.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 7, 2006 9:56 PM
Comment #111211
Personally, I’d have thought along the same lines of the PI, gun versus fists, gun is more dangerous.

Well stephanie, there’s no way that I could comment on that case without knowing exactly what happened. People view incidents in their own way, and sometimes the jury sees them differently.

But looking at the laws of the land as a whole, they are not nearly as straight-forward as many lawyers claim they are.

Well, I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree on that point.

NOTE TO CRIMINALS: Just destroy the evidence and you’ll be fine.

Too many criminals have already learned that lesson, sorry. That’s part of the problem.

…but that “problem” has existed since crime has existed. It’s getting much BETTER though, not worse. Advances in investigative techniques have made it more and more difficult to get away with breaking the law. Amazingly, most criminals are NOT smart enough to destroy evidence.

Unless politics gets in the way of the process. Or, the warrant may not do them any good if the evidence is destroyed while they went through the process. I don’t know it as fact, but I’ve been told by more than one police officer that they don’t actually have access to a judge 24/7.

Well, I obviously won’t win you over on this point. The trend has been to create MORE exceptions to the warrant requirement throughout the years, not less. There is basically no expectation of privacy in an automobile anymore, for example.

However, a warrant will probably always be required to search the home, unless one of the few exceptions is fulfilled. That’s right there in the 4th amendment, and it aint going anywhere.

Sure, you’d be willing to open your home up to a legitimate investigation of a rape suspect. What I think you’re not considering, however, is that giving the government such power would inevitably lead to many illegitimate uses of the search.

Ransacking the homes of political opponents, or simply trashing someone’s belongings to carry out a personal vendetta. Politically motivated criminal prosecutions.

You’re also not considering that many people have LEGAL possessions in their home that they do NOT want exposed to the public. Would you really want to open your home (and every room, closet, and drawer) to government officials whenever they decided to go through all of your belongings?

These are the kinds of things that happen in countries that do NOT have such fundamental protections of homes and belongings.


Posted by: mattLaw at January 8, 2006 2:42 PM
Comment #111212
Of those 80% does that include those overturned on appeal?

It’s actually somewhere over 80%, and I’m not sure if it includes cases overturned on appeal (the number of which is incredibly small).

Posted by: mattLaw at January 8, 2006 2:44 PM
Comment #111216

Thanks Matt, as you can tell I’m not a lawyer, though I spend alot of time reading to learn more I appreciate your input and answers.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 8, 2006 3:00 PM
Comment #111289

mattLaw,

“People view incidents in their own way…”

The point wasn’t whether the charge was right or wrong; the point was that the guy thought he was in the right, but was found to be in the wrong. Thus, that particular law wasn’t clear enough for him to be able to determine what to do and it wasn’t a situation where he could call his lawyer (if he could even afford to have one) to seek legal counsel.

“Amazingly, most criminals are NOT smart enough to destroy evidence.”

I’ll admit it’s getting better. Peterson comes to mind. He tried to destroy the evidence and failed. And I’ll admit that criminals are not necessarily the brightest of individuals (otherwise, they’d presumably choose something other than crime), but the exceptions are worisome and giving the police the tools to handle the exceptions is important to me.

What I think you’re not considering, however, is that giving the government such power would inevitably lead to many illegitimate uses of the search.

I’ve had government officials in my home (granted not doing a full search) for “illegitimate” reasons before. It was annoying, but I didn’t have anything to hide, so it wasn’t much of a problem.

Long story short. I have three children with autism specrtum disorder, because of which they sometimes do very bizarre things. Sometimes those things are dangerous. Upon occasion, I’ve had neighbors who didn’t know us or understand our situation call them cops on neglect charges. CPS then has to investigate. Even when they’ve investigated several times before and found nothing amiss, but extenuating circumstances. We’ve got the drill down pat now and I must say they’re all very friendly, but I know there’s no neglect, they know there’s no neglect and yet they still have to respond. While kids who are actually being neglected aren’t looked after, because THEIR neighbors don’t report the parents.

Ransacking the homes of political opponents, or simply trashing someone’s belongings to carry out a personal vendetta. Politically motivated criminal prosecutions.

These things happen whether it’s legal or not and if you’re not connected to politically powerful people there’s not a whole lot you can do about it, Constitution or not.

Would you really want to open your home (and every room, closet, and drawer) to government officials whenever they decided to go through all of your belongings?

The most shameful thing in my house is a copy of People magazine. Unless you’re talking about the Koran, which the feds might have a problem with, but no, I don’t have anything I would want to hide.

“These are the kinds of things that happen in countries that do NOT have such fundamental protections of homes and belongings.”

And I’m not recommending we go back to such a situation. I’m just saying that there needs to be more of a balance than we have.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 9, 2006 1:44 AM
Comment #111372
I’ve had government officials in my home (granted not doing a full search) for “illegitimate” reasons before. It was annoying, but I didn’t have anything to hide, so it wasn’t much of a problem.

…well then you are much more accommodating than I would ever expect the majority of Americans to be.

These things happen whether it’s legal or not and if you’re not connected to politically powerful people there’s not a whole lot you can do about it, Constitution or not.

Well then let’s not make it any easier!

And I’m not recommending we go back to such a situation. I’m just saying that there needs to be more of a balance than we have.

Stephanie, I really think that if you thoroughly looked into this, you’d find that what ‘we have’ is balanced significantly in favor of law enforcement.


Posted by: mattLaw at January 9, 2006 12:00 PM
Comment #111449

mattLaw
Was out of town yesterday. Have to get caught up.
You asked for an example. I gave you one. I sure hope that that kind of behavior isn’t tolerated anymore. From either the defence or the procescution.
I’ve got a question about something that has been bothering me for a few mounths now.
The County Sheriffs Department raided the house of a known crack dealer. As they were entering the house they heard the suspect flushing the toilet. The took the sewer lines apart and found the drugs had been flushed. A judge up in Atlanta (the defense got a change of venue)threw the case out because he said the search warrant didn’t cover the sewer line.
The question is, Do you think the judge was right?

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 9, 2006 3:16 PM
Comment #111475

Ron—

The County Sheriffs Department raided the house of a known crack dealer. As they were entering the house they heard the suspect flushing the toilet. The took the sewer lines apart and found the drugs had been flushed. A judge up in Atlanta (the defense got a change of venue)threw the case out because he said the search warrant didn’t cover the sewer line.

I searched for quite awhile online and I couldn’t find anything about this case (making me wonder how you heard of it). Can you provide any such link?

It sounds fishy to me (based on the few details you provided) because I don’t see how anyone could assert a reasonable expectation of privacy on a sewer line, something the defendant would likely neither control nor own.

Perhaps you have a few of the details wrong. It is true that a warrant must state with particularity the places to be searched and the items to be seized. That much is required by the 4th amendment.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 9, 2006 4:05 PM
Comment #111495

This was on the local news. I forget which channel. I gave you all the information I have. I take it though that you think the judge was wrong.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 9, 2006 4:25 PM
Comment #111497

I kinda suspect a payoff.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 9, 2006 4:26 PM
Comment #111506

A “payoff” wouldn’t cover the fact that an appellate court will likely review the decision, without affording deference to the lower court’s ruling.

Without more information, I really can’t say whether I agree or disagree with the judge.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 9, 2006 4:36 PM
Comment #111686

mattLaw,

“Stephanie, I really think that if you thoroughly looked into this, you’d find that what ‘we have’ is balanced significantly in favor of law enforcement.”

You may be right. I just know that there are some bizarre exceptions, if you will, that certainly make no sense from the layman’s p.o.v.

But, alas, I think it’s time we agree to disagree and let this matter drop.

Posted by: Stephanie at January 9, 2006 10:54 PM
Comment #111862

In past discussions regarding the merits of the death penalty I seem to remember such statements as ;
[1] It costs more to execute someone than to keep them in jail for life.
[2] DNA has been used to determine the innocence of condemned prisoners
[3] Moral, social, legal and religious pros and cons
[4] The death penalty has been disproved as a deterrent to crime
[5] Can the taking of a person’s life ever be considered just punishment for his taking of
another’s life

Far more innocent people are killed by prisoners who are subsequently executed than are innocent prisoners who receive the death penalty.

Posted by: steve smith at January 10, 2006 11:32 AM
Comment #111886
Far more innocent people are killed by prisoners who are subsequently executed than are innocent prisoners who receive the death penalty.

…thus executing the occasional innocent person is alright? What’s your point?

Posted by: mattLaw at January 10, 2006 12:30 PM
Comment #112575

This just in,

From AP;

“DNA Tests Confirm Man Executed in 1992 for Rape, Murder in Virginia Was Guilty
1/12/06 8:01PM GMT
By KRISTEN GELINEAU , Associated Press Writer

New DNA tests in a quarter-century-old murder case confirm the guilt of a man who pleaded his innocence until the final moments before he was electrocuted in 1992, a spokeswoman for the governor said Thursday.

The tests, ordered by Gov. Mark R. Warner last month, prove Roger Keith Coleman was guilty of the 1981 rape and murder of his sister-in-law, Warner’s spokeswoman Ellen Qualls said.”


Do we presume to that the rights of the one are more important than the rights of the many?
Do we save everyone and damn the cost (I’m not talking about dollars)?
Do we let one guilty man go free rape and pillage again, rather than see one inocent man executed?

Posted by: Rocky at January 12, 2006 3:45 PM
Comment #112576
Do we let one guilty man go free rape and pillage again, rather than see one inocent man executed?

…those are the only two options, “go free” or be “executed?”

That doesn’t make sense.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 12, 2006 3:50 PM
Comment #112588

mattLaw,

So out of the three questions you choose only that one.

I am late to this thread so excuse me if this has been brought up.
We have more folks in prisons than ever before. Amongst those folks are some pretty heinous criminals.
How does keeping these heinous guys alive help stop people commiting the same crimes?
Neither life in prison or death seems to be a deterent to crime, so what difference does it make if society puts a few bad guys to death, rather than having them be guests of the state ad infinitum?
The money spent on supporting these bad guys could be better used in programs to keep kids out of gangs and out of prison altogether.

Society as a whole doesn’t seem to searching for true enlightenment, as for in a truely enlightened society we wouldn’t have the need for the prisons or the death penalty.

Posted by: Rocky at January 12, 2006 4:15 PM
Comment #112599
We have more folks in prisons than ever before. Amongst those folks are some pretty heinous criminals.

It would be more appropriate to say “amongst those folks are an incredible amount of non-violent drug offenders.”

How does keeping these heinous guys alive help stop people commiting the same crimes? Neither life in prison or death seems to be a deterent to crime, so what difference does it make if society puts a few bad guys to death, rather than having them be guests of the state ad infinitum?

I personally think that the execution of prisoners is wrong, and we’ll have to disagree on that point.

However, do you not feel that the argument becomes much more complicated when you consider that our justice system is NOT perfect and that innocent people are sometimes convicted of crimes?

The money spent on supporting these bad guys could be better used in programs to keep kids out of gangs and out of prison altogether.

I feel the same way about the much more significant amount of money spent prosecuting the “War on Drugs.”

Posted by: mattLaw at January 12, 2006 4:37 PM
Comment #112600

DNA Tests Confirm Executed Va. Man Guilty. This dog didn’t bark.

Posted by: Jack at January 12, 2006 4:38 PM
Comment #112604

Don’t you mean “hunt?”

Posted by: mattLaw at January 12, 2006 4:52 PM
Comment #112733

Thanks Jack, I just read that too and was going to post it as an update.

Guess the answer to the question “Is this the one case?” is…

No.

Amazing how quickly that it was done and over with after years of legal wrangling. Maybe that’s the lesson for the future from this.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 13, 2006 8:41 AM
Comment #112734

Sorry Rocky, thank you too, I didn’t see you posted it first.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at January 13, 2006 8:42 AM
Comment #112921

Matt

No I meant bark as in the dog that didn’t bark for Sherlock Holmes. It is significant that to show the negative in that case.

The dog won’t hunt saying could be used for the whole death penalty debate.

Posted by: Jack at January 13, 2006 3:19 PM
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