Wednesday, July 26, 2006

This has to be every DA's biggest fear

Imagine, you have a murder suspect. The case isn't the strongest, indeed you don't even have a body. Yet, you proceed with the case, and despite a weak case, you win. You convince a jury that this man committed murder. The man goes to jail. A year later, in another part of the country, a woman is arrested and jailed for theft. This woman just happens to be the woman that the man you sent to prison was found guilty of murdering.

This same situation recently happened in Pakistan. There's really nothing to say that it wouldn't happen here. What's troubling to me is the apparent ease by which a prosecutor could find him or herself in this position. We're trained to believe that when the police arrest someone, they must be guilty, because they wouldn't arrest an innocent person. We see it on television and in the movies all the time. The prosecutors' job is to make sure the bad guys go to jail, and the slimy defense attorneys are looking at holes in the system to jump through so that the wonderful "defense advantage" of "reasonable doubt" saves them. As I surmised a couple days ago, while our system presumably is "innocent until proven guilty," we seem to be trained in a Pavlovian manner to believe the opposite is true. This is what makes defense attorneys necessary for the preservation of our way of life. People might not like them, but in a jam, there's nobody you'd rather have on your side.

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