The botched sentencing of convicted rapist Brock Allen Turner proves just how unscientific and capricious the justice system is. Mr. Turner, a 20-year old Stanford University student who was also a star swimmer, received a six-month jail sentence after being found guilty of sexual-assault-a laughable short sentence considering the nature of the crime. The sentence has provoked a public backlash against the sentencing judge – Judge Aaron Persky of Santa Clara County Superior Court.
No-one should be under the illusion that the average jailhouse snitch is a “noble whistleblower”, only interested in seeing that justice is properly served. There is now a mountain of evidence that many informants lie under oath. In some cases, the motivation may be money, in many more it is the reduction of prison time or other favors; false testimony is often a last resort by a desperate inmate.
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.
As incredible as it sounds, studies of wrongful convictions reveal that in more than 25% of the cases a false confession or other self-incriminating statement was used as evidence by the prosecution. Why would an innocent person ever confess to a heinous crime that they did not commit? – Part 2 of a series on The Common Causes of Wrongful Convictions.
One of the most infuriating aspects of the criminal justice system is that there is virtually no punishment for prosecutors who send innocent people to prison. Government lawyers are almost never held personally accountable for destroying the lives of innocent defendants and their families.
Owning up to past mistakes is crucial for the growth of any democratic nation. Acknowledging that we screwed up, and understanding exactly what went wrong, allows us to take steps to prevent similar screw-ups in the future. This applies to wrongful convictions.