Thursday, August 20, 2009

This is another issue that brings up mixed feelings in many people.

Innocent people being found, upon retesting DNA evidence several years later, to have been wrongfully convicted.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad their innocence is being proved. I'm glad they are being released. I'm glad to see justice served in these cases.

At the same time, cases like that of Kenneth Ireland, who spent 20 years locked up for a rape and murder the DNA evidence proves he could not have committed, is another example of why juries are asking increasingly for the kind of "proof" they see on tv crime solving shows.

Can the system afford to do that much extensive testing on every case? Should they be required to do so?

Medicine is practiced this way now. If someone comes into the ER with obvious impairment due to drugs or alcohol, he or she will still be routinely screened, by CT scan, to see if there is any bleeding on the brain that might also be causing symptoms. The chances of head injury or aneurysm being a factor is less than I care to think about, but no doctor wants to be sued because this was that one in a million case. So, everyone gets the nice, not exactly cheap, test. CYA (Cover Your Arse) medicine.

Law is also becoming a CYA run system. The highly covered cases of people wrongfully convicted receiving millions of dollars in compensation, coupled with how so much overwhelming evidence is presented every night on tv with such ease, is making it so.

How much evidence is enough? How much testing does each individual case "deserve"? How much evidence will juries start to require before they are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt one way or the other?

All of this came up in my head because Bigger Girl's teacher was called in for jury duty this week. (Of course they had to wait till summer was over and school started again to call teachers in for jury duty. What else would have made sense?) I know she is an extremely well educated and intelligent woman who would weigh the facts and who is not easily cowed or convinced. There would have to be sufficient, though not necessarily overwhelming, evidence for her to vote for conviction.

There are others who will demand that it be as clear cut and easy as they see on tv.

That can only help those who are innocent, like Mr. Ireland, not be wrongfully convicted. Will it also help those who are guilty escape justice because the system can't afford to make expensive testing of every kind and sort available on every case?

No wonder my brother-in-law walks into jury duty telling them things like, "The best legal brief ever written is the Book of Romans in the Bible, and it distinguishes between the imputation of innocence and the wrong wording of assuming innocent until proven guilty." He has never been seated on a jury -- I think attorneys are afraid of him.

Today is:

Chinese Valentine's Day

Constitution Day, Hungary

Moon's Birthday -- Aztec Calendar

National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day

National Homeless Animals Day

National Radio Day

Pony Express Day

St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Day (Patron of bees, beekeepers, candle

makers, Gibralter)

St. Stephen's Festival, Budapest, Hungary

Victory Day, Turkey

Virtual World's Day

Birthdays Today:

Al Roker, 1954
Connie Chung, 1946
Jacqueline Susann, 1921
Edgar Guest, 1881
H.P. Lovecraft, 1880
Benjamin Harrison, 1833
Bernardo O'Higgins, 1776

Today in History:

Hungary established as a kingdom by Stephen I, 1000
The Dutch bring the first African slaves to the colony of Jamestown, VA, 1619
Photography invented, 1839
Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" opens in Moscow, 1882
Rotary Dial telephone is patented, 1896
Adolphe Pegoud makes the first parachute jump from an airplane, 1913
Stainless steel is first cast, 1913
WJM,8Mk, Detroit, becomes the first commercial radio station to start daily broadcasting, 1920
UK becomes the first to use radar, 1940
Plutonium weight determined, 1942
Launch of Voyager 2, 1977
George and Joy Adamson, the Born Free conservationists, are gunned down by poachers, 1989

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