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.
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.
A case in point is that of William R. Strong, who has been locked away for a dozen years or more for "wife rape. "
Strong comes from a patriotic military family. His father was a colonel and Strong served as a lieutenant and has two college degrees. The family trusted America and the police and the justice (sic) system. When advised that Strong would be out in a year if he agreed to a plea bargain, the family, beset with troubles, pressured Strong to accept the deal.
That should be enough to wreck marriage in America, or for that matter, heterosexual sex unless there is a signed contract prior to each act.
It seems obvious that Strong was set up, double crossed, and is a threat to no one. Many have recommended his parole. But on February 20 of this year the Virginia Parole Board turned Strong down for the 11th time.
The American criminal justice (sic) system is incapable of admitting that it makes mistakes. The criminology bureaucrats claim that those inmates who proclaim their innocence are in denial and, thus, cannot be rehabilitated and, therefore, remain dangerous. In truth, it is the bureaucrats who are in denial and constitute a danger to justice.
The criminal justice (sic) system has nothing to do with justice. It is a massive producer of injustice. The agenda is to clear court dockets and to produce high conviction rates. These high rates are achieved through coerced plea bargains.
Strong still believes in America and that justice will win out. I hope he is right.
Law and order conservatives think of the police in god-like terms as "public defenders. " Conservatives could gain more perspective if they watch some of the videos on You-tube of gratuitous police violence, such as this one of a police officer delivering a brutal beating to a 15-year old girl.
A Google search for You-Tube videos of police violence lists 485,000 entries, and these are just the acts captured on camera. How many cops are psychopaths who constitute a greater danger to the public than do criminals? SWAT teams are notorious for breaking down doors at the wrong address and murdering innocent citizens.
Cops are also notorious for framing people as it is easier than doing serious investigation of crimes and collecting evidence. Even the guilty are often framed as that is easier than convicting them on the evidence.
Libertarian free market types believe that the private sector can do everything better than the public sector. This ideology causes libertarians to be blind to the dangerous incentives created by the privatization of prisons.
On February 12, CBS News reported that two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with sending kids to privately operated detention centers in exchange for $2.6 million in payoffs.
In contrast, private jails make more money the more inmates they have.
Just think of all the kids whose lives have been ruined by the greedy judges and private prison operators. The judges have been sentenced to seven years on reduced charge plea bargains.
So much in America needs to be revamped -- the economy, foreign policy, health care, and the criminal justice (sic) system. Does a country broken in so many ways have a future?
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com
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