Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who's Watching the Watchers?


Let me see if I have this straight ... the government can prosecute you - and when doing so it can keep certain, key forensic evidence from you, your attorney, and the Court --- evidence that shows you to be innocent - and in the end they will not be held accountable for that?

(Oh, did I fail to mention that as a result of their 'illegal' actions - you were convicted, sent to prison, placed on death row and at one point were mere days from being executed.)

Well, according to the United States' Supreme Court - the answer is Yes!

Granted, the exclamation point is mine - as far as I could ascertain, there were no such marks in the Court's opinion.

Having had served as a prosecutor, I understand the need to protect government employees from their own  unintentional stupidity. But, that does not appear an apt description of what went on here - no matter what the majority of the Supreme Court would have you believe - this was not an isolated incident or just a little negligence.  Rather, what this looks like to me was an act of evidence suppression continued over several years and appears to have involved bad judgement by not just one attorney but (rather) a number of individuals in the prosecutor’s office.

The sad truth is prosecutorial misconduct goes on - someplaceeveryday - and, although not always leading to a result like that in Mr. Thompson's case, it harms not only the specific object of the governmet's bad act ---  it also hurts everyone of us.  

So, what's the result of the Supreme Court's holding?

Besides giving its (none too subtle) approval to misbehaving prosecutors, what I believe the justices in the majority failed to appreciate is that bad cops, bad lawyers, bad judges and bad convictions all have the force and effect of erroding our confidence in the system as a whole. 

Maybe it is the kool-aid drinker in me that believes that this whole thing (ie., society) "works" because we all blindly believe a couple of maxims. One of the biggest of those being - that there is justice inside the court room and that rather than sending one innocent man to prison we would set one-hundred guilty men free.

Well, after this - maybe I'm indulging in the wrong beverage?

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