- Taschenbuch: 432 Seiten
- Verlag: Berkley; Auflage: Reprint (2. Dezember 2003)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0451209826
- ISBN-13: 978-0451209825
- Vom Hersteller empfohlenes Alter: Ab 18 Jahren
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13,5 x 2,2 x 20,3 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 18 Kundenrezensionen
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 564.329 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
- Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen
Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make it Right (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 2. Dezember 2003
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A troubling portrayal of the criminal justice system from within its well-guarded walls.” —New York Times“Required reading for anyone who believes that only the guilty are put to death…A catalog of appalling miscarriages of justice.” —Washington Post"[A] chilling look at judicial corruption and incompetence.” —New York Daily News“Should be required reading for...our justice system.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, once lawyers with the Bronx Legal Aid Society, co-founded The Innocence Project, which seeks post-conviction release through DNA testing. They are among the most prominent civil rights attorneys in the U.S.
Jim Dwyer is the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Daily News and author of several other books.
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Some of this is strong stuff. You'll read of crime labs so filthy and disorganized that they are incapable of processing evidence, and of forensic "scientists" so corrupt and incompetent that they present false or invented evidence in court. You'll read of police and prosecutors who ignore the truth in order to convict the innocent and of judges who turn their backs on the rule of law because of prejudice or political ambition or just to satisfy the blood lust of a mob mentality. Some of those wrongfully convicted have spent decades in prison and have had their lives torn apart.
If we believe, as some of the hardened, cynical police officers, prosecutors and judges in this book (and elsewhere) do indeed believe, that it doesn't matter if we compromise the truth a little to get a conviction because the guy is probably guilty of something else anyway-if we believe THAT, we will become that which we despise, and the jungle of bestiality will be upon us.
The question therefore arises, why are there people in the judicial system (the scandal in the Rampart Division of the LAPD comes freshly to mind) who lie and plant phony evidence in order to get convictions? Part of it is the strain of the job and the environment in which law enforcement people exist. They become corrupted by their surroundings. They become cynical and take on the coloring of those around them. They adopt the methods of criminals. They see horrible crimes everyday and in their frustration to convict somebody, they lie and compromise themselves. And then, once they have compromised themselves, they spiral deeper and deeper into lawlessness, feeling all the time that it is "us or them."
What is the solution? Eternal vigilance, of course, and the authors are doing their part in that. But also, I think, we need to amend some of the rules. Jailhouse snitches should never be allowed to testify in court. We must have strong independent oversight of the police, not in the sense that the police will be afraid to do their jobs, but in the sense that nothing they do is secret from society. We must recognize that their job is a tough one, but we must be ready to clean house when it is necessary (and it will be necessary). Those accused of a crime should have legal representation as competent as that in the district attorney's office. In fact I think that all lawyers should have to spend some time both prosecuting and defending the accused, and that money should play no part in who represents whom. High priced lawyers should be required to not only take on pro bono cases (which many do as a matter of principle), but to prosecute some of the time as well. And district attorneys should be required to defend cases as well as prosecuting them. The adversarial system probably cannot be avoided, but if the players are forced to assume from time to time positions on both sides of the aisle, I think some of the inbred corruption can be eliminated.
No system is ever going to be perfect. When a horrendous crime is committed, we want nothing more than to find who did it and punish that person severely. That is human nature. But we must guard against letting our blood lust so cloud our judgement that we end up punishing the poor and the weak and people we don't like.
So hurrah for this book and the light it sheds on how the new forensic tool of DNA testing is helping us separate the guilty from the actually innocent. And yes, Barry and Peter, you are forgiven for helping a certain very sad person avoid the slammer. [words, 809; characters, 3779]
Scheck and Neufeld have convincingly shown there are serious flaws in our judicial system which cause many people to be convicted of crimes they did not commit. They show this primarily by use of DNA testing and explain with compelling case histories how these convictions are obtained: faulty eyewitness testimony, lying snitches, coerced confessions, racism, falsified lab results, incompetent defense attorneys, and dishonest prosecutors. It doesn't help that we have a Supreme Court that seems more interested in expediting the process than in ensuring justice.
The current scandal with the Ramparts division of the LAPD is a vivid reminder of how bad matters are, even though it "only" involves lying police officers and prosecutors willing to accept "testilying".
The DNA evidence can't really be argued against. My guess is that defenders of the current system will try to ignore the work done by these two and others. We know that when finally forced to do pay attention the conviction of innocents, the morally and intellectually bankrupt argument is made that the fact of overturning the convictions is proof the system works. I predict that when DNA evidence finally does start freeing even more wrongly convicted, the argument will be that things are now cleaned up and we can safely conclude the problem to be solved. Of course, it won't have been. Only those few cases where DNA evidence is available will be cleared.
"Actual Innocence" closes with a series of suggestions for improving the system to decrease the number of innocent people convicted. They are sensible and it's hard to see how they could be argued against, except perhaps by saying it's too expensive to keep honest people out of prison. Or even alive, since we do have a death penalty in this country. Again, the likely prospect is that an attempt will be made to ignore the proposals.
The only possible improvement I can see to this book would have been a chapter dedicated to making a case for how many innocents are routinely being convicted. Careful and conservative estimates for how often this happens based on the data available might be a key piece in discussing the subject with others. The message is there if you're awake while you read the book, but can get lost in the specific miscarriages of justice described.
Having said that, DO read the book, for another perspective if nothing else. Knowing personally of an erroneously convicted death row inmate in Texas who was freed after almost 20 years because of the errors of the "we got the right guy, we're sure of it" mentality and legal "rules" that seemed to serve perceptions of guilt rather than factual assessments of guilt. This exposure tells me firsthand that errors CAN and DO occur. Yet surprisingly, no-shockingly, he does not oppose the death penalty, both as a concept and for the people he knew on death row-even though he once came within two days of execution!
Read the book. Not specifically as an issue of the death penalty, but as an examination of the legal system. And a reminder that the legal system, or any system, is only as accurate, precise, selfless and truthful as the people who participate in it.
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