Tuesday, March 14, 2006

How many innocent victims is "a few"?

My better half, my mother, and others remind me that I don't want to be primarily remembered as that "guy who was really for the death penalty." I support capital punishment in the same way I do abortion and assisted suicide: None are good outcomes but there are limited needs for all of these very serious acts.

Nonetheless I simply cannot sit still as reporter after reviewer after columnist continues to torture the truth in their zeal to portray Americans' support of at least the concept of capital punishment as barbarism.

One of many, many recent examples comes in articles in the Detroit Free Press' review of the film "After Innocence," which profiles the lives of several men who were wrongly convicted of serious crimes. I get weary of pointing out that these stories are so stunning precisely because they are so rare. It is unlikely that these days anyone would make a documentary about a serial killer unless his victims were young, blonde, and white.

No one can help but be moved by the stories of some of these men; but, not content with the eloquence or poignancy of their stories, the author makes the astonishing claim that one man "was the 140th person to escape execution through post-conviction DNA testing."

WHAT? Even according to Barry Scheck's Innocence Project there have only been 174 DNA exonerations for ALL crimes, more than 90% of which were not murder, let alone death penalty cases. In fact, the number of inmates taken off death row specifically because DNA cleared them is....FIVE. An additional nine inmates who were once on death row were eventually fully exonerated by DNA evidence.

Some might say, 14 or 140, it doesn't make a difference. That makes as much sense as being told you have a 1% mortality risk from a surgical procedure versus a 10% risk.

Yet people who call themselves journalists and their editors continue to repeat grossly misleading statements like this.

The usual response is, “So what if it’s only 10 -- that’s 10 too many!” Of course it is. A prosecutor’s absolute worst nightmare is not losing a case - any real prosecutor will lose a few. No, the real nightmare is prosecuting or, worse, convicting an innocent person. It is for that reason that many of the high profile Innocence Project exonerations like the late Eddie Lloyd of Detroit or Christopher Ochoa of Texas came to be: in large part because of the actions of the prosecutor to right an injustice.

In the same issue of the Detroit Free Press was another REALLY disturbing story, as evidenced by the headline "a few still kill".

How many ACTUALLY dead innocent victims is “a few?”

Saturday, March 4, 2006

A Little Something for Everyone

I apologize for the delay in getting the oft-promised weekly post up but it was motivated in part because of a number of requests to read my New York Times op-ed of January 26. I also wanted to post the actual promos ABC had run which later they denied existed. Here's just one reason why I love the satellite DVR.

The OpEd generated a bizzard of e-mails. I'd say 80% were supportive, 15% in opposition and 5% obscene. My personal favorite was from one of the far left blogsites that had a little poll in which most of the respondents said they thought that more than 10% of all convictions were wrongful. Not even the most fevered true believer Public Defender would agree to such a claim.

On March 1 the producers of MSNBC's Abrams Report called and asked if I could drive the 90 miles (one way) to Portland to participate in a discussion of the crappy TV show that got me fired up in the first place, In Justice. I had to explain I have this day job and I was trying a DUII trial that day, and they were kind enough to send a satellite truck to me.

I was preceded by the show's creator and executive producer, Robert King, and star Kyle MacLachan who most of us remember from Twin Peaks and other great surreal David Lynch projects, along with the truly awful movie Showgirls. King actually semed pretty reasonable and made it clear that the show was "ripped from the heart" not the headlines and that that they were just trying something new. The actor, of course, started taking himself too seriously and implied he was on a larger social mission.

Here's the transcript of the show.

I wish I had already found this giddy review of the program from the World Socialist web site. The Comrades quite accurately describe that the show "has offered us lying witnesses, incompetent “experts” and federal law-enforcement officials willing to send innocent men to life in prison in pursuit of their law-and-order agenda. Cops interrogate children in the most brutal fashion so they can get false confessions and wrap up their cases."

Among the consolations are these reviews: "ABC Guilty of Petty Theft," Tom Shales of the Washington Post: "'In Justice' is more of an injustice," from Roboert Bianco at USA Today; and "New legal drama's bad timing could make for a miscarriage of 'Justice'," from Melanie McFarland of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

"InJustice" is regularly ranking last among the big three networks.

Next on the hit parade was my appearance on the Bill O'Reilly show the day AFTER my NYT op-ed was published. I had to be in Portland anyway and I wanted to point out that O'Reilly's outrage over Vermont judge Edward Cashman, who announced he longer beleived in punishment and sentenced a child molester to probation and 60 days local time, was in fact NOT a loon, but simply advocating a sentencing philosphy that masuqerades under the title "Restorative Justice."

Here's the transcript of that show.

I don't agree with much of what O'Reilly says but he is right on this issue. The "RJ" crowd likes to hide behind a series of platitudes that conceals a belief that criminals and victims are essentially morally equal and that what we really need is reconciliation not incapacitation, a concept carried through to their logo.

There is no question that having offenders do community service or apologize to their victims can be valuable, particularly in juvenile cases. But to give you an idea how wrought up they get take a look at what one of the premier RJ groups posted on their website.

I'm particularly amused by the "Oregon insiders" who say I'm such pond scum. How would they account for my being selected as president of the Oregon DA's group in 2001, selected twice as Oregon's represntative on the board of the National DA's organziation, or my recent gubernatorial appointment and 28-0 State Senate confirmation to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission?

Those of you with a few extra bucks wanting to do good, feel free to contribute to the campaign of my best friend and partner, Cindy Price who is running as NOT one of the good old boys against the incumbent for Clatsop County Commission in District 3.