Speaking out about injustice

When I see injustice, and especially when I see it happening in a courtroom, I feel alternately enraged, disappointed, saddened, and then inspired to do more and better to make a difference. I see a police detective who has no evidence but has a suspicion and feels the pressure to make an arrest, threaten potential witnesses, threaten them with life in prison and the loss of their family, and tell them word for word what to say if they want to stay out of prison. On video. I have seen this same scenario in more than one case.
I see the same detective make promises to help a jailhouse snitch, and look the other way as the jailhouse snitch collaborates with other snitches to put together a story that will fit the detective’s theory. The detective conceals exculpatory evidence, concealing it even from the prosecutor. The detective lies under oath at more than one hearing, about the evidence, about the testimony, about his conversations with the witnesses.
A prosecutor sees all of this, and somehow inexplicably believes that his duty is to take what the detective has given him and prosecute this case. If the system works, won’t a competent and effective defense lawyer prevail over injustice? A very competent and effective defense lawyer exposes all of this, in open court to a judge, and proves all of the above through impeachment with documents, audio, and video evidence.
Yet a judge ignores the injustice, sides with the detective, and allows the case to go forward. Why are we fighting to stop the government from lying, fighting to try to keep the government from prosecuting individuals based on lies? It occurs to me that we need only look to the developments in recent months in the Middle East to see why we keep fighting here, to see why it is important to keep our government in check and to keep our government honest.
Power feeds on itself. The power of government grows and will continue to grow if it goes unchecked. And at its worst it kills, it enslaves, and it abuses its citizens. There are horrendous examples across the world, throughout history, and here in the land of the free.
John Thompson spent 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, 14 years on death row, and was nearly executed before it was discovered that prosecutors hid evidence that proved his innocence, effectively conspiring to commit murder themselves. The United States Supreme Court then decided that the prosecutors, who were not and will never be prosecuted themselves, are also immune from lawsuit for what they did. The N.Y. Times printed his story, told in his own words.
Anthony Graves spent 18 years in prison before he was exonerated of rape by DNA evidence, then was denied compensation by the state that took his life away, and now the state has decided to garnish his wages for back child support for the years he was in prison.
The news is filled with stories of wrongful convictions and persons exonerated by DNA evidence after spending years or even decades behind bars – most from the handful of states that require law enforcement to preserve DNA evidence and allow defendants access to have it tested. The wrongfully convicted in other states will continue to live in prison.
Why is it important that we do not allow the government to prosecute with unreliable evidence, to stop law enforcement who lie on the stand, to shut down prosecutors who go forward with prosecutions despite a lack of real evidence? If it is not enough that innocent people are convicted and locked in cages across the country, that innocent people are abused, threatened, sometimes beaten, tazed, or shot by agents of our government, consider that it is a slippery slope, from America to China where the government stops Christians from congregating to celebrate Easter and where lawyers are arrested, detained, or simply disappear when they speak out about human rights abuses.
Or to the absolute extreme, as the Syrian government begins killing its own citizens indiscriminately and without pretense for speaking out about injustice, or the Bahraini government begins to attack and detain physicians for treating wounded protesters, who were attacked by their government because they were protesting.
We have the best government, and the best court system in the world, many Americans say. And in comparison to Gadhafi’s Libya it is certainly a miracle of freedom and democracy. But, why is it the best in the world? What are the principles that make it so amazing and what are we doing to make sure that the reality matches our ideals?

5 Responses to “Speaking out about injustice

  • No Name Girl
    9 years ago

    I am often asked how I can represent guilty people. Most recently, that question came from a solicitor and I just thought, “How can you not? How can you convict an innocent person?”
    Of course, they all think that they would be able to see the difference and have the strength to dismiss the case against the innocent person. Regrettably, they over-estimate themselves.
    I recently had an innocent client convicted and I questioned my whole existence. Why do I continue to bang my head against this wall of injustice? This post sums up the answer to that question beautifully. Thank you. You are pretty incredible for standing up. What makes it the system so amazing is the people like you who continue to stand up and encourage others to stand up. We might not win, but we have to stand up!

  • Thank you. Caring is contagious right?

  • No Name Girl
    9 years ago

    I hope so.

  • Thomas Anderson
    9 years ago

    I am a retired police officer. 32 years on the job. I believe in honor and integrity. I am a consultant. NOT A LAWYER. I have been witness to the injustice right here in Horry County. I have had 6 clients. All cases were either dismissed or the client was found not guilty or the actual criminal involved was charged. I review every word in the charging document, I research all case law. I put together a complete package with suggestions for the lawyers to attack and provide that for the client. The root of injustice begins with its leaders within the organization. Without leadership, supervision and proper guidence a lazy non working corrupt environment will begin to flourish. I respect any man or woman who defends their client with hinir and integrity. I will continue to help any way I can.

  • My son was charged with CDV and held in jail for 24 days before we were finally able to post his bail. If we hadnt gotten him out then he would have been there for 38 days before his court date. He was arrested and charged because he poured a glass of kool-aid on his girlfriends head, very wrong but 24 days is a long time for that. While in jail he asked for an attorney and was told that his family had to get him one; what if he didnt have a family? He asked repeatedly until finally they allowed him to apply for a public defender, but when court came he had still not heard anything from an attorney. The officer told him to ask for PTI because that was his best option. I thought an attorney was a right that all americans had. Now he is jobless and has to come up with alot of money for this program and has already served 24 days in jail. We were hoping for a time-served verdict. Berkeley County has been unfair and doesnt care about facts just turn over!! What can be done about this injustice?
    -Concerned Mother

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