"I spent 16 years in prison for a crime I didn't commit."
September 16, 2008 6:26 PM   Subscribe

Remember Jeffrey Deskovic? (If not, spend a minute browsing the links on the previous thread first). He just wrote an interesting position piece on what can be done to make sure that what happens to him doesn't happen to others.
posted by allkindsoftime (13 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Christ, it's so disgusting when DAs frustrate the consideration of evidenc, in order to protet their conviction rate and reputation, when it potentially means innocents remain in prison or on death row while protecting the actual criminal from justice.

I honestly don't understand why -- especially -- the law and order types aren't up in arms that this allow criminals to continue to prey on society while the innocent do the criminals' time.

Oh, wait, I do understand: the law and order types care about law and order, not justice, and figure that as long as enough people they dislike -- for their background, habits, or race -- are in prison, that keeps "their kind" scared and forms a deterrent that keeps society orderly enough that the law and order types can prosper and flaunt their their moral superiority.
posted by orthogonality at 7:10 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, I am impressed by his temperate tone. Though I might not agree 100% with the details of his article (only because I feel he didn't speak enough on topics like parole contingent on admission of guilt and mandatory compensation) I support the principle of what he's talking about.

It's reasoned and articulate writing like this that highlights what a terrible shame it is that innocent people are rail-roaded away.
posted by phyrewerx at 7:18 PM on September 16, 2008


Another important case study - David Milgaard, imprisoned for 23 years.
Tragically Hip wrote a rather beautiful song on the subject called Wheat Kings:

"In a zippo lighter you see the killer's face
Maybe it's someone standing in the killers place
Twenty Years for nothing well that nothing new
Besides no one is interested in something you didn't do"


And of course, there's the rather urgent case in Arkansas which these kinds of recommendations really, really need to be applied to.
posted by mannequito at 7:18 PM on September 16, 2008


Very sensible recommendations, especially the equalization of prosecutor and public defendant compensation and support.
posted by Mitheral at 8:36 PM on September 16, 2008


The discussion regarding parole was a bit surprising to me, in that it really never occurred to me that a parole board would deny parole because a prisoner continues to maintain a plea of innocence. You're rather screwed, aren't you, at that point? If you admit guilt to a crime you didn't commit to gain freedom, the admittance could be used against you. If you maintain innocence, you obviously aren't remorseful enough to be released.

As for the rest, I didn't find anything in there with which I disagreed. (My nod is a bit passive, because the cost of implementing some of his suggestions within the current system may make the implementation prohibitive.)
posted by FormlessOne at 9:18 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


the law and order types care about law and order, not justice

Hey, easy buddy. You forgot about power.
posted by grobstein at 9:20 PM on September 16, 2008


Is it don't talk to the cops? Is it? Is it?
*reads*

It is!*

I don't know that police shouldn't be allowed to use any (legal) tactic to interrogate a suspect. But I don't think there's any question interrogations should be videotaped to preserve the rights of the accused. And admissible by the defense. As it is there's things like - if you pass your DUI test - that is if you blow 0.0 - you can't use that in defense (in Illinois).

*Not to sound flip. This really sucks. But - I was pretty wild growing up. I remember one time, I got caught doing something. So I admitted to it and had to pay for it and other things.

My dad wasn't around so my mom called one of my uncles to come and talk to me.
Well, this particular uncle was a premiere martial artist. He was such a scary dangerous SOB that other scary dangerous SOB's hired him as a bodyguard. The man was intimidating. And my mom said he was coming to "straighten me out." So I'm expecting, at best, a nightmare chewing out. That's if he doesn't just turn me into meat slurry for making my mom cry.

He came in my room. I didn't know when he was coming, just that he was. Sat me down. I'm in my underwear here. Ready for bed. He clamped me on the shoulder. Looked me right in the eye.
And he said to me - and I'll never forget this:
"Smed. Don't ever admit to anything."

I said "Wh-what?" and blinked.
He said: "You admitted you did it. Don't ever do that again. Not if they catch you doing it. Not if they have videotape. Never. Admit. To anything."

And it's worked for me. I mean, he pounded the hell out of me in training and instilled discipline (because I wasn't, really, a nice kid at heart, I was a mean bastard).
But it drained the naivety out of me and refocused the world where, no, there are some people who are trying to screw you whether you're a 'nice guy' or not. It wasn't enough to be right or wrong. You make justice. And if you don't then it's all dog-eat-dog all the time everywhere.
Which probably kept me from growing into a power-addict like the bastards who railroaded this guy who clearly don't see that.

""Maybe you are innocent," Judge Nicholas Colabella said just before giving me a 15-years-to-life sentence" - then going on to bathe himself in goat blood and summon the Nazisexpain demon.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:24 PM on September 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


You make justice. And if you don't then it's all dog-eat-dog all the time everywhere.

Dear god, this is true. I hate that it's true, but it is undeniable. If you wait for justice, you will wait forever. The squeaky wheel truly gets the grease.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:42 AM on September 17, 2008


An immediate sum of $15,000 dollars for each year spent wrongfully incarcerated should immediately be paid to those who have been cleared of a crime.

That's just 41 USD a day? Not enough. The base repayment, regardless of any future settlement, should be a lot higher.

How much would you pay, even if you had to take out extortionate loans, to avoid a year locked in a building with guys who like to beat, rape, and kill others? That's how much they should pay the day you walk out the door, though maybe ten percent of that should be guaranteed to the person or group that makes your release possible -- make overturning wrongful convictions a fast and easy way to make a little cash. Then let the government sue to get that money back from the people who are to blame for the wrongful conviction.
posted by pracowity at 4:33 AM on September 17, 2008


Or, to keep the cost down, the Government could deduct 'bed and board' payments from the compensation as they do in the UK. Seriously.
posted by Jakey at 5:43 AM on September 17, 2008


But I don't think there's any question interrogations should be videotaped to preserve the rights of the accused

I think almost every minute of every police officer's on-duty time should be videotaped, with turning off the camera considered a very bad offense.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:59 AM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


TheOnlyCoolTim, I concur! I always get pissed off no matter the situation or how nice the officer is when I see a video that ends with them asking or telling that the camera needs to be turned off. Bullshit. You a public servant on public time, you have no right to privacy. You will conduct your business in full view of the public which you serve.

In regard to the OP, I like most have to agree with this most most of the way.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:30 AM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


“That's just 41 USD a day? Not enough. The base repayment, regardless of any future settlement, should be a lot higher.”

I agree that it’s not enough. I disagree that the cost should be borne by taxpayers. Perhaps put the prosecutors and cops on the hook for it - if it can be proven they fabricated evidence, etc. And of course, put them in jail.

“I think almost every minute of every police officer's on-duty time should be videotaped”

I agree. In the digital age, there’s not much reason not to. I’d be happy to fork over extra in taxes for that kind of program.
Y’know, it’s funny, we hold teachers to a higher standard, and demand more accountability for them to justify their salaries than we do police officers. Oh sure, on the one hand, it’s our kids. But on the other - the cops carry firearms. And, maybe, it’s our kids.

Slightly related. Went through airport security a bit ago, back when everyone was self-righteous and nervous (as opposed to merely self-righteous as they are now). And my child was singled out for random search. So they were going to take her into a room and I started walking with them. Guard tried to stop me.
That’s where it got interesting. Long story short* - people seem to recognize folks are a little... angsty ... about strangers taking their little girls alone into rooms - whether they have badges or not.
(*It’s nice when you can deliver a level open threat with the addendum “no jury would convict me” and have it recognized all around as purest truth)

But some people get badges or authority and forget that accountability is supposed to come with that power.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:31 AM on September 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


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