“Why this love affair in this country with lengthy incarceration, to our great embarrassment as a civilized nation?”
Would you confess to a crime you did not commit?
‘In the Closed Room’ is a documentary on the vital subject of false confessions.
The rivalry between the United States and China is not just a competition for economic or military supremacy, much more importantly it is a battle over ideas. The most significant of these ideas involves the question of how society ought to be fundamentally structured and to what extent the state can constrict a citizen’s liberty. It is a contest between two diametrically opposed ways of living.
The use of data and predictive algorithms for calculating prison sentences for convicted felons is the latest in the criminal justice system. This practice has come to public attention thanks to a man named Eric L. Loomis.
It is an encouraging sign that the Department of Justice is finally starting to grasp the importance of sound science in the courtroom. On June 3rd, the department released its first set of rules regarding courtroom testimony that pertains to forensic science – particularly its reliability and the conclusions that can be drawn from it.
Our goal is to identify how and when the system breaks down and destroys the lives of innocent men and women as well as their families. In fact, the reason why we are so vigorous in our efforts to bring awareness to the many wrongful convictions that occur in this country is precisely because we know that there exist capable and honest lawyers who can make the system better. Diagnosing a disease is the first step to synthesizing a cure.
Tunnel vision is the result of our mind narrowing its focus to a limited range of possibilities so that alternatives are not considered. Whilst this may be acceptable, or mildly inconvenient, in many areas of life, it has disastrous effects in the criminal justice system. When not checked it leads investigators, prosecutors, judges and defense lawyers to focus on a particular conclusion, while eliminating from the investigation any alternative suspects or theories, and even any contradictory evidence.
If ever there was a textbook case to demonstrate the dazzling array of unacceptable problems with our criminal justice system, it is the case of Sandeep “Sonny” Bharadia. Eyewitness misidentification, law enforcement incompetence, perjured testimony and bad lawyering all played a part in sending this obviously innocent man to prison for life without the possibility of parole. And in spite of recent DNA evidence that would surely exonerate him, he has been denied a new trial on the basis of a loophole in Georgia state law.
In a new editorial series, Justice IQ will attempt to overturn decades of the conventional wisdom surrounding the vaunted constitutional right to a trial in which one is judged by a jury of his peers. The assertion that the jury trial paradigm is inherently compromised is an extremely uncomfortable notion. After all, the jury trial is supposed to epitomize the values of impartiality and equality in the context of the justice system, and a healthy properly functioning criminal justice system is the cornerstone of every democracy.
Empirical evidence is completely absent from any discussion about juror psychology, and what little of it does exist is used more as tradecraft for lawyers seeking to manipulate trial verdicts than data for those interested in improving the fact-finding process itself.