Sunday, July 14, 2013

It's Me, It Must be Me.

I am a disinterested bystander, with no direct connection to the events in Sanford, Florida, so I paid only casual attention while this media circus unfolded.  I scanned the news from ABCNNBCBS and FOX, I followed a blog called Legal Insurrection and pretty much maintained a low emotional tie to the verdict, believing our judicial system would reach whatever verdict was most appropriate, based on the law.
Obviously I am not typical of most people.  Perhaps, as pointed out by a liberal acquaintance, I am a “duped individual with no sense of reality.”  If, contrary to what I see in postings on Facebook and in the media, I believe it is wrong to assume a person is guilty until the state proves beyond a reasonable doubt their guilt then I guess I am duped with no sense of reality.
Maybe the justice system is broken, we often set free people the media has condemned in the court of public opinion, where evidence is replaced by whatever is broadcast and judgement is based on emotion, and send to jail those the media pays little attention to.  For example, who among us remembers the outrage over the not guilty verdict in the State of California v. O. J. Simpson, or the not guilty verdict in the State of Florida v. Casey Anthony?  So how does this play against the wrongful conviction rates where the state law enforcement and prosecutors zealously pursue and convict innocent men and women?  The Nation had an interesting article a year ago about a new database to track the number of convictions overturned as new DNA evidence becomes available.   By the way, there had been over 800 convictions overturned since 1989, when DNA verification was first allowed.  Wrongful Conviction Blog places the estimate of bad verdicts at 5,000 to 10,000 a year.  This is a very small percentage of the total convictions in that same timeframe so it would suggest two things.  First our current system is pretty accurate when everyone plays by the rules, and second there are probably still a significant number of people behind bars that should not be.
I, like our founders, believe it is better a guilty individual be set free than an innocent be placed behind bars.  I am open to someone showing me a new judicial system that comes with better accuracy on always getting it right, since our current system is so old and subject to all the human abuse we can heap on it, but until then I will take our trial by peer system over its precursors like trial by submersion, or trial by combat, trial by fire, or trial by dictator/king.

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