The Criminal Injustice System
Paul Craig Roberts
Ronald Cotton spent 11 years in prison because Jennifer Thompson provided eye witness testimony that he was the person who raped her. On March 9, National Public Radio revisited the story.
It turned out that Thompson was completely wrong, DNA evidence indicated that it was not Cotton but another man who had bragged about the rape.
Thompson asked Cotton for forgiveness, and he gave it. The two became friends and have collaborated on a book. On NPR Thompson said that eye witness testimony is incorrect 70 percent of the time.
I am familiar with psychological studies that conclude that eye witness accounts are wrong half of the time. That is enough to discredit eye witness testimony as evidence; yet, police and juries always bank on it.
Rape victims tend to be angry, and they want someone to pay. When shown mug shots or a lineup, they tend to pick someone, naively believing that if it is the wrong person the police investigation will clear the person.
Witnesses to crimes who are not themselves victims want to be helpful to the police. Consequently, they also tend to deliver up the innocent to justice.
And then there is the purchased “witness” testimony that prosecutors pay for with money and dropped charges in order to close a case. A favorite trick is to put a “snitch” in the cell with a defendant. The snitch then comes forward and reports that the defendant confessed.
Law and order conservatives think that the only miscarriages of justice are effected by liberal judges and liberal parole boards who can’t wait to release dangerous criminals to prey on the public.
The absurd idea that the justice system doesn’t make mistakes about those it convicts, except when they are let off by liberals, has made it impossible for innocent people wrongfully convicted to be paroled.
To be paroled, a person must admit to his crime and go through rehabilitation. Of course, only the guilty admit their crimes, and so only the guilty qualify for parole. Innocent people tend to maintain their innocence.