I get this question all the time. Everyone including, close family members, a waiter I bounce a fact pattern off of, people I go to church with, close friends who I deem to be intelligent, moral, and ethical, and EVEN LAWYERS ask me this same question.
So, is it a stupid question? Texas Monthly has the answer. YES!
I was at my In-Law’s house over the Thanksgiving holiday. After the last bit of desert was gone, I had a few minutes to kill before the Cowboys game came on and there it was. The Answer.
I picked up the November issue of Texas Monthly and began reading The Exonerated. The article details the nightmare lived by 37 men. From the case, to the incarceration, and life after being exonerated. One exonerated person tells how he missed his children growing up, lost his wife, and his father died before his innocence was brought to light. There is a Play that tells this type of story that I wish would come to Houston.
These are the men that keep every freedom-loving criminal defense attorney awake at night. These are the men of To Kill a Mocking Bird, but were not represented by Atticus Finch. Everyone knows the saying, “it is better to let 99 guilty persons go than to lock up 1 innocent person.” These men are that 1 person. Each one of them.
The Article answers how this can happen in America:
“The short answer is simple: People make mistakes. Most of these cases share a common story line: A woman, usually a traumatized rape victim, wrongly identifies her attacker. Sometimes her testimony is backed by rudimentary serology tests. Sometimes the cases are pushed too hard by aggressive police officers or prosecutors. Sometimes the accused already has a criminal record and becomes a suspect in an unsolved case in which he resembles (or is the same race as) the perpetrator. Almost every man here had a solid alibi, but cops, prosecutors, and juries chose not to believe it.”
These 37 men were lucky enough that evidence was preserved in their cases. Are there others locked up unjustly? Do I even have to answer that? For you skeptics who just want blood when a horrible crime has occurred, think of it this way. In these 37 cases, the real culprit was not apprehended at the time. An innocent man was locked away why the RAPIST was lurking in your neighborhood.
I want to hear from the other people involved in these cases. The prosecutors, the judges, the defense lawyers, and especially the juries.
This article ought to be mandatory reading for every judge, lawyer, and prospective juror. Great work Texas Monthly!!