Friday, March 25, 2011

wrongful convictions...

if you have no interest in the criminal law, then this post probably isn't for you ;) this is just my personal rant about a class i love and some problems i have...

first off, i am so happy that i am doing my major in something that i absolutely love. there is one class in particular which is hands down, my favorite class i have taken in the 4 years. next week is the last class and i don't want it to end. it also helps that the prof is totally amazing-she's a defence lawyer and i just love listening to her speak. there is no "ummm" or "welllll..." or any filler words, you know? i'm guessing it has to do with the fact she's a lawyer and needs to be a good, confident speaker ;)

anyways, i think this course has made me a cynic. the last couple classes have been about wrongful convictions. i sat there in every class just listening to her speak so intently (as i do every week), and i just don't want the class to end. learning about this particular topic has just made me so frustrated, to say the least. did you know, that in the US, a wrongfully convicted person will spend, on average, 13 years in prison, from the time of sentencing to exoneration. talk about unreal. of course, that's an average, so some people are a lot more, others a lot less. we've talked about the main causes of WC; things like tunnel vision, jailhouse informants, eyewitness identification, false confessions, prosecutorial misconduct, expert witnesses etc...

it was when we talked about expert witnesses that really got me thinking. it's like you just can't trust anyone. sometimes the language they use can mislead a jury. i mean, how is a jury full of average people, supposed to take what the expert says, but then think, "well, i don't think they're right!" or "that's nice, but i'm going to disagree with you." i mean, it's just not likely! we call them 'experts' !! we put them on a pedestal. they say things like, "if i were a betting man, i would say it's more likely that ... a polar bear caused those wounds to a child, rather than a dog (as the defence was saying)" [that's a true quote, which this expert often said]. so the jury gets it in their mind that this expert must absolutely be right, because hey, he'd bet on it! they also say things like, 'well the fibers could have come from place X"  but they're not forward in saying the chances of it not likely coming from that place..(i realize this may not be making any sense to anyone else ha).

to hear so many cases of wrongful convictions, it just blows my mind. they're not as uncommon as you may think. there was one mother whose baby had died. she was charged with the murder. for whatever reason, she was not put in prison, but she was kept in custody for 22 months. she had 2 other children. with no one else to care for them, they were put in foster care. what happens after 12 months in foster care? children can go up for adoption. so not only did this mother lose her baby, and was charged with committing the murder herself, her other 2 children were adopted! it's heartbreaking. do you take the children out of the stable family they've now become part of? (i believe they were young when it happened)..i don't know the rest of it, the prof didn't go into it, but obviously, whatever choice is made, it won't be easy for the children...
one dr. was known as "the guy" in canada for a particular field. however, 45 of his cases were recently called to review. 20 of those 45, he made errors  which may have caused errors of the outcomes. 12 led to wrongful convictions.

anyways, this was just my mini rant, which i wrote in a fury haha. there are certain recommendations that have come into place since particular cases, that help eliminate particular language used by expert witnesses, but i just don't know if i'll ever be able to trust what they're saying, 100% ever again after hearing this lecture.
those poor, poor people whose lives are completely ruined  by the system.

and just 2 examples of canadian cases: Donald Marshall, Jr. 11 years in prison for a for a murder he didn't commit. sentence the guilty person received when the caught him? 1 year.
David Milgaard-22 years in prison for a rape and murder he didn't commit.

 via

i always seem to write weird, downer posts on fridays?? anyways, enjoy your weekend :)

9 comments:

Dylan said...

it's such a good feeling when you enjoy what you're studying! I'm really so glad that you do. Not only does it make it easy to pay attention in class, but typically you'll achieve grades that you're satisfied with :)

there is no reason why your class needs to end. if you really like it, then you should continue to study it on a personal basis. perhaps this is a direction you can explore as a career - or of course simply because you like it.

<3

JaY said...

I'm glad you wrote this post. I like seeing people getting frustrated (or passionate, as I like to call it's myself) with our criminal justice system because they see its flaws and how EASILY they could be avoided. There is so much wrong with the CJS, even if it is 1000x ahead than that of our neighbors to the south.

Keep your passion!

Dana Michelle said...

So important to love what you do! cute blog!

dana
theabundantlifeblog.com

Raven said...

Very, very interesting. Glad I read it!

Carina the Blogarina said...

So sad to! Especially when you know what goes in the prison, not to mention if the death penalty is involved.. Interesting you should write this post because just last night I was researching a case where the convicted claims he has been victim of a wrongful conviction. He is appealing to the courts in Strasbourg. It was a particularly brutal case with the rape and murder of a 8 and a 10 year old so there was a lot of publicity (2000). Anyway, personally I believe he is guilty as hell. But there was barely any evidence. It's scary that you can get the strongest punishment there is by law on such weak evidential position.

Krysten @ After 'I Do' said...

Bree you HAVE to see the movie The Life of David Gale http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0289992/ It's exactly about this and it will totally freak you out. We watched it in my ethics class and it totally changed the way I thought about the death penalty. Since you're so passionate about this I think you'll really enjoy the movie.

Jac said...

I remember feeling a similar interest when I was taking a law class in college. Glad you're so passionate about it!

Oh and I found this super interesting and I am in no way shape or form affiliated with criminal justice ;)

Opal Stevens said...

Love your blog! Following you from blog hop.. I'm Opal from opalstevens.blogspot.com, hope you can check it out sometime.. :D

susie.rose. said...

I'm in High school, but i'm taking a CSI. I know what you mean how you can't trust anyone, but how it is so easy to persuade people. funny how life and people work.

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