« Vermont judge increase notorious sex offender sentence | Main | How will the Hill case impact execution plans? »

January 26, 2006

Of innocence and over-punishment

The New York Times has this interesting op-ed from Joshua Marquis, an Oregon district attorney and vice president of the National District Attorneys Association, which bemoans the fact that "Planet Hollywood" creates movies and TV shows suggesting "that our prisons are chock-full of doe-eyed innocents who have been framed by venal prosecutors and corrupt police officers with the help of grossly incompetent public defenders."  He concludes his commentary by asserting that "Americans should be far more worried about the wrongfully freed than the wrongfully convicted."

Over at TalkLeft, T Chris here bemoans "prosecutors like Marquis [who] blithely assure us that we shouldn't worry about wrongful convictions."  To add my two cents, I suggest no one come to a conclusion in this debate until they read at least some of this amazing five-part investigative report on the criminal justice system that appears in the San Jose Mercury News this week.  Here is an excerpt from Executive Editor Susan Goldberg's introduction to the series:

Today and for the next four days, we are publishing the results of an unprecedented, three-year investigation of criminal jury trials in Santa Clara County.  Its conclusions are inescapable and chilling: Too many things go wrong in our county's courtrooms.  Too many trials are less fair than they should be.  Too little is done to correct these problems, even though many officials are aware of them.  And, as a result, in some cases, people are going to prison for crimes they did not commit....

We began this project in late 2002, when we learned of questionable conduct by prosecutors in several trials.  Those cases made us wonder: How often does that happen?  So we began to devise a systematic way to examine trials by looking at the records of virtually every jury trial that had been appealed from Santa Clara County over a five-year period. Ultimately, that came to 727 cases.  Early on, it became clear that the story was not just about prosecutors, but about how each piece of the legal system -- including defense lawyers, trial judges and the appellate court -- had some responsibility for conduct that, in the worst instances, increased the chance of an innocent person being found guilty.

Ultimately, despite what the San Jose Mercury News reveals, I share some of Marquis' concern that much emphasis is placed on claims of innocence.  But this view is informed by my belief that Americans should be far more worried about over-punishment.  I think our society's extraordinary incarceration rates (and the racial skews in our whole criminal justice system) should be a greater focal point for those concerned about injustices in our criminal justice system.

January 26, 2006 at 04:46 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e200d834a4eba469e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Of innocence and over-punishment:

Comments

Are the doe-eyed innocent in prison really guilty when the Supreme Court says punishment may be imposed for acquitted conduct, the jury found the defendants not guilty, but at sentencing the judge found on a preponderance of his own judicial fact-finding that the not-guilty was guilty and sentenced as if the verdict was returned by the jury. The District Attorney could not have invented a surer system of punishing who he feels needs to be imprisoned, not who is guilty as charged beyond a reasonable doubt.
“We therefore hold that a jury's verdict of acquittal does not prevent the sentencing court from considering conduct underlying the acquitted charge, so long as that conduct has been proved by a preponderance of the evidence.” United States v. Watts 519 U.S. 148 (1997)

Posted by: Barry Ward | Jan 26, 2006 5:40:31 PM

It's quite ironic that Joshua Marquis should write this op-ed, given that he unjustly led the prosecution of Sandy Jones. Then again, maybe he has a vested interest in ensuring that wrongful convictions was not investigated.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 26, 2006 7:42:59 PM

Overpunishment and overcriminalization - a lot of things are crimes that have no business rising to that level, and a lot of minor, tortious offenses have been labeled crimes for no better reason than political grandstanding. For similar reasons, sentences are WAY longer than necessary to maximize public safety, to the point of being counterproductive. Everywhere the system is bloated and misproportioned beyond all common sense.

Precisely where are all these "small government conservatives" one hears about, I frequently wonder? They must all get on the tax cutting committees ...

That Mercury News story is something, isn't it? I'm just starting to go through it. Impressive work. I agree the innocence meme is dissatisfying in some ways, avoiding the big elephants in the room like race, class and educational disparity, but it does argue for important procedural and other reforms that are well worth pursuing, as the Mercury News series ably demonstrated.

Posted by: Scott | Jan 26, 2006 7:44:09 PM

I think you hit the nail on the head. The innocence issue is sexy, but overpunishment (and overcriminalization, as Scott points out) are much bigger issues.

Posted by: Dan Filler | Jan 26, 2006 11:43:32 PM

I agree with Scott as well. Hollywood's (and the glamorous left's) focus on innocence misses the point entirely about what's REALLY wrong with this country's criminal justice system -- its overcriminalizing and overpunishing of poor and mostly non-white people. Even worse, the obsession with innocence is usually coupled with an acceptance of punishment for the guilty, and thus affirms the legitimacy of the current system.

Posted by: ycl | Jan 27, 2006 10:18:28 AM

Both concerns are important and may be more linked than we can ever fully know. There is that intersection between over-punishment and the imprisonment of people who are actually innocent: the threat of those long prison terms. I do not doubt that it leads to false testimony by cooperating witnesses eager to earn prosecutors' motions for substantial assistance reductions, and, if we are to believe their accounts, false confessions to lesser included charges or in exchange for dropped charges. The best recent examples of the phenomena were the Tulia confessions. Defendants began to confess following early prosecutions in which some co-defendants received shockingly long sentences on the testimony of a liar. I have no idea how many people are convicted on the say-so of a cooperating witness who was promised a reduced sentence and without any other corroborating evidence, but we routinely hear about such cases. Such a system tolerates the possibility of the incarceration of actual innocents. It is something prosecutors, judges, all of us should not abide.

Posted by: Mary Price | Jan 30, 2006 2:10:00 PM

If some is serving a 17 year to life sentence on ag un charge after being found not guilty of murder or manslaughter, does this person serves 2/3 of their time? I was told state that they would have to serve at least 12 years of their time and then can be hit at the board twice, 2 years each time at the parole board hearing. I am a student. This question is based on the New York State Law and also if the person is considered a mandatory violent felony predicate.

Posted by: Wanda Brown | Aug 17, 2006 1:13:11 AM

IS THIS REPORTED GAY SANTA MONICA COMMISSIONER JUST ONE BAD EXAMPLE OF A NEW POLICY IN AMERICAN FAMILY COURTS ALL ACROSS AMERICA OF DON'T ASK AND WE WON'T TELL ???


LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS IS VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THE VERY REAL POSSIBILITY THAT COMMISSIONER DAVID J. COWAN OF SANTA MONICA CA COURT HOUSE IS A CLOSET GAY MAN OR FOR THAT MATTER ~ OPEN GAY MAN, THAT HAS SOMEHOW BEEN GIVEN COURT CASES INVOLVING FAMILY CHILD CUSTODY ISSUES AND IS THE NEWEST FACE OF WHAT IS TO COME IN AMERICAN FAMILY COURTS ACROSS AMERICA ?????????????????

MR.DAMON DUVAL AND HIS TWO WONDERFUL CHILDREN (MAYA & JAZZ ) HAVE ALL NOW BEEN KEPT APART FROM ENJOYING EACH OTHERS COMPANY BY COMMISSIONER DAVID J. COWAN SINCE DECENBER 4 2008. FOR SOME VERY UNCLEAR REASONING THIS APPARENT GAY NAPOLEON COMMISSIONER APPEARS TO BE MORE INTERESTED IN MR.DUVALS MENTAL HEALTH STATUS THEN THE LIVE IN BOYFRIEND OF HIS EX WIFE OF THE LAST 2 YRS., WHO HAS BEEN REPORTED TO THE EL SEGUNDO POLICE DEPARTMENT AS HAVING TOUCHED MR. DUVALS LITTLE 3 YR OLD MAYA ON HER PRIVATE PARTS ??

THIS SANTA MONICA COURT COMMISSIONER APPOINTED CHILDREN'S COUNCIL AT MR. DUVALS REQUEST (LAWYER AMY NEIMAN OF SANTA MONICA CA) WHO HAS BEEN MORE INTERESTED IN ACTING AS A MENTAL HEALTH EXPERT( WITHOUT THE QUALIFIED DEGREES ) AND MISLEADING THIS CHILD CUSTODY MATTER INTO GAY NEVER NEVER LAND WITH THIS SANTA MONICA COMMISSIONER FOLLOWING HER FEMALE INTUITION & ADVICE CONCERNING THE MENTAL HELATH STATUS OF MR. DUVAL!

FOR SOMEONE WITHOUT MENAL HEALTH DEGREES TO QUESTION THE PROFESSIONAL JUDGEMENT OF THE MENTAL HEALTH EXPERT WHO HAS ALWAYS STATED CLEARLY TO THE COURT THAT MR. DUVAL IS OF SOUND MIND AND WOULD TESTIFY IN PERSON TO THE COURT CONCERNING THIS FACT, IS ALMOST ANOTHER FUTURE LEGAL CASE FOR LA COUNTY WAITING TO HAPPEN ?

**WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE THE LA COUNTY COURT SYSTEM TO OPEN A INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO THE SERIOUS COMPLICATIONS THAT ENCOMPASS THIS POSSIBLE CHILD PEDOPHILE CUSTODY CASE AND HOPE THAT ALL CURRENT COURT APPOINTED LAWYERS WORKING FOR LA COUNTY LIKE AMY NEIMAN ARE ADVISED TO HELP PREVENT CLASS ACTION LAWSUITS RATHER THEN CREATING ONE IN THE FUTURE !


LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS WILL CONTINUE WRITING ABOUT THIS SPECIFIC LEGAL CASE ON THE WWW UNTIL A PROPER OUTSIDE INVESTIGATION OF THESE PEDOPHILE CHARGES HAS BEEN PROPERLY ANSWERED !!!

LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS HAS A VERY DIFFICULT TIME WITH ANY RESULTS THAT COME FROM THE EL SEGUNDO POLICE CONCERNING THIS INVESTIGATION DUE TO THE CLOSE RELATIONSHIP OF MR. DUVALS FORMER WIFES CURRENT DIVORCE ATTORNEY (MR.ROY KIGHT )HAVING HAD HIS LAW OFFICE SITUATED IN EL SEGUNDO FOR THE LAST 20 YRS.+ , AND HAVING GOOD FRIENDS IN EL SEGUNDO TO DO HIM CERTAIN FAVORS WHEN NEEDED !!!

~ A SIX MONTH RESTRAINING ORDER THAT BEGAN THIS CHILD CUSTODY SEPERATION OF MR. DUVAL AND HIS CHILDREN WAS BASED ON A EL SEGUNDO REPORT THAT MR. DUVAL SAYS WAS CLEARLY FABRICATED ABOUT HIM TO MAKE HIM LOOK BAD TO THIS PRESIDING JUDGE ~

*** ISN'T IT A LITTLE ODD THAT THIS EL SEGUNDO LAWYER MR.ROY KIGHT WAS ABLE TO PREDICT 22 MONTHS AHEAD OF TIME BY TELLING MR. DUVAL OUTSIDE A SANTA MONICA COURT~ ROOM THAT HE WAS "GOING TO TAKE AWAY ALL HIS CHILD VISITATION AWAY BETWEEN HIM AND HIS CHILDREN AND THAT THIS IS A POKER GAME FELLA AND ARE YOU READY TO PLAY " ***

NO MR. DEVALS MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT THE ISSUE IN THIS LEGAL CASE, THE REAL ISSUE HERE IS DID THIS DIVORCE LAWYER ROY KIGHT SET MR. DUVAL UP WITH GAINING FALSE TESTIMONY IN EL SEGUNDO CA AND INFLUENCE THE EL SEGUNDO PEDOPHILE INVESTIGATION OF HIS 3YR, OLD DAUGHTER ???


ATTORNEY ROY KIGHT IS ON THE RECORD AS HAVING PREVIOUSLY THREATENED MR. DUVAL OUTSIDE THE SANTA MONICA COURT ROOM AND WE FEEL MIGHT ALSO BE SO CAUGHT UP IN THIS CUSTODY BATTLE AND THAT HE MIGHT HAVE HAD WAY TOO MUCH INFLUENCE AND INTEREST WITH THE PEDOPHILE INVESTIGATION THAT NEVER TOOK PLACE ????????????????

LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS WOULD BE VERY INTERESTED IF LAWYER ROY KIGHT WOULD ADMIT UNDER OATH (AND SUPPLY INVESTIGATORS HIS PHONE RECORDS) AS TO NOT EVER ATTEMPTING TO INFLUENCE THE FORMER (NOW RETIRED EL SEGUNDO POLICE DETECTIVE MULRONEY CONCERNING THIS PEDOPHILE CRIMINAL LEGAL CASE ???????????????????????????

WE ENCOURAGE EVERYONE INTERESTED IN PREVENTING FAMILY COURT GAY COMMISSIONERS AND JUDGES ACROSS AMERICA FROM CONTINUING TO ALLOW THEIR COURT APPOINTED LAWYERS LIKE (AMY NEIMAN OF SANTA MONICA) TO MISLEAD JUDGES AROUND THE COUNTRY LIKE WHAT HAPPENED IN MR. DUVALS CHILD CUSTODY CASE IN SANTA MONICA CA,TO CALL THEIR GOVERNMENT LEADERS WHO THEY FEEL MIGHT BE ABLE TO HELP MAKE THE NEEDED CHANGES IN THIS LEGAL PROCESS FROM SEPERATING AND DESTROYING OTHER FAMILIES IN OTHER CITIES AND TOWNS ACROSS OUR COUNTRY !!!


***PLEASE ENTER THESE TITLES LISTED BELOW INTO ANY WWW SEARCH ENGINE TO SEE THE FIRST OF MANY WRITTEN ARTICLES CONCERNING MR. DUVAL AND HIS TWO CHILDREN. THE PICTURE OF THIS CARING AND LOVING FATHER WITH HIS TWO BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN IS SPECIAL AND SAYS IT ALL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!


1) SANTA MONICA SCANDAL CREATED BY THE U.S. CONGRESS ~
2) PRESIDENT OBAMA YOU TUBES 4 U.S KIDS !!!
3) AMERICAN DIVORCE COURTS NEED A GIDEON FROM U.S.SUPREME COURT !!!


LAINDYMEDIA.ORG HAD THIS VERY SPECIAL PICTURE FEATURED WITH THE ARTICLES ! WE ALSO ENCOURAGE ANYONE INTERESTED TO ALSO WATCH THE VIDEOS MR. DEVAL HAS OF HIM SPENDING YEARS OF TIME BEING TOGETHER WITH HIS KIDS AT VARIOUS LOCATIONS (beach,hikes in Santa Monica Mountains,riding scooters in parks,etc on ~
BIGDADDYMAYAANDJAZZ.COM OR AT THE END OF PREVIOUS ARTICLES UNDER VIDEOS .....


LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS IS A WWW LOBBY GROUP MADE UP OF VOLUNTEERS WHO CONTINUE TO LOBBY AROUND THE WORLD ON THE WWW FOR MIDDLE CLASS AND WORKING POOR AMERICANS TO ALL BE AFFORDED PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION BY OUR U.S. CONGRESS IN CIVIL, CRIMINAL AND FAMILY COURTS OF LAW NATIONWIDE.

JUST ENTER LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS OR OUR PHONE NUMBER INTO ANY WWW SEARCH ENGINE TO READ PREVIOUS ARTICLES FROM AROUND THE WORLD !
lawyersforpooramericans@yahoo.com (424-247-2013)

WE ALSO WANT TO GIVE YOU ANOTHER SMALL SAMPLE OF OTHER WRITTEN ARTICLES THAT LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS HAS PUBLISHED ON THE WWW.

1) TROY DAVIS,PLEASE REMEMBER THAT AMERICA IS NOT THE OLD SOUTH ~ AFRICA !!!

2) MANNY GONZALES THE KID THAT EVERYONE FORGOT IN THE CA PRISON SYSTEM !

3) REV RICK WARREN, THESE REALLY ARE CRIMES AGAINST HUMNITY ISSUES !!

4) ARE THEY KINGS OF SLAVES OR THE U.S. CONGRESS ??

5) PRINCE CHARLES, PLEASE REMEMBER THAT IRAN GAVE U.S. JOURNALIST ROXANA A FAIR TRIAL !!!

6) INTERNATIONAL PROTEST WITH GOOGLE NEWS STORY NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT TO SAVE 2 AMERICANS !!!

7) DOES OPRAH CONDONE THIS INJUSTICE ???

8) INNOCENT AMERICANS ARE DENIED HC RIGHTS WITH THEIR FEDERAL APPEALS !!

9) U.S. JUDICIAL SYSTEM IS IN NEED OF BILLIONS IN BAILOUT FROM IVORY TOWER U.S. CONGRESS !

10) WHEN THE INNOCENT ARE ABANDONED BY THE GUILTY !!

11) PRESIDENT OBAMA DID NOT CREATE THIS MESS, BUT LETS ALL SAY A PRAYER FOR HIS SUCCESS !!!

12) ACTOR CHRIS NOTH AND MARK BURK SLANDERED BY MODEL BEVERLY JOHNSON !!

13) POORER AMERICAN S NEEDS WORLDS COURT HELP !

14) WILL THE ROYAL FAMILY NOW HELP PRESIDENT OBAMA FREE THEM ?

15) U.S.CONGRESS DECADES OF NEGLECT & ABUSE OF POORER AMERICANS ~ A SAD AND TRAGIC REALITY !!!

16) AND GEORGIA WANTS TO EXECUTE TROY DAVIS ???

17) IS NELSON MANDELA NEEDED IN AMERICA TO CORRECT THIS INJUSTICE ???

18) THIS SUPREME COURT KNEW REAL JUSTICE ?

19) 100,000 INNOCENT U.S. PRISON INMATES HAVE BEEN WRITTEN OFF BY OUR GOVERNMENT !!!

20) WORLD COURT FINDS CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IN USA !!!

21) WHY DO POORER AMERICANS NEED GOD TO LOBBY OUR U.S. CONGRESS SENATOR OBAMA ???

22) WHERE ARE AMERICAS RELIGIOUS LEADERS WHEN IT BECOMES THIS EASY TO EXECUTE EVEN INNOCENT AMERICANS ???

23) MIDDLE CLASS AND WORKING POOR AMERICANS HAVE BEEN PORTRAYED BY RICH AMERICA !!!

24) AMERICAS JUDICIAL SYSTEM NEEDS C*H*A*N*G*E...

25) WILL THE POPE NOW SPEAK OUT ABOUT THESE AMERICAN INJUSTICES ???

26) WHEN GODS FACE BECAME VERY RED !!!

27) ARE AMERICAS RELIGIOUS LEADERS BEING SILENCED ?

28) IS THE U.S.GUILTY OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY ??

29) THANK GOD PRESIDENT OBAMA RESPECTS OUR POORER AMERICANS !!!

30) U.S.CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS HAD TO BEG U.$ CONGRE$$ ...

31) GOD AND PRESIDENT OBAMA ARE WALKING HAND IN HAND ON THIS ONE !!!

By LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS
lawyersforpooramericans@yahoo.com 424-247-2013
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DouglasField


THIS SANTA MONICA COMMISSIONER DOES NOT BELONG IN FAMILY COURT ANYWHERE IN AMERICA !!!

ALL OUR READERS ARE ENTITLED TO KNOW THAT MR. DUVAL HAS BEEN PICKETING IN FRONT OF THE SANTA MONICA COURTHOUSE NOW FOR 21 WEEKS MONDAY - FRIDAY FROM 9AM TO CLOSING AT 4:30 PM !

LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS IS IN TOTAL DISBELIEF THAT COMMISSIONER DAVID COWAN WOULD EVER THINK THAT HE IS EVEN CAPABLE SOMEHOW OF EVER BEING A FAMILY COURT JUDGE IN THE FUTURE IN SANTA MONICA WITH THIS BIASED JUDICIAL MENTALITY TOWARDS STRAIGHT MEN WITH THEIR CHILDREN !

IT IS OBVIOUS TO ANY HONEST PERSON VIEWING THIS LEAGL HORROR STORY THAT COMMISSIONER COWAN HAS DONE EVERYTHING IN HIS POWER TO DESTROY THE LOVING RELATIONSHIP MR. DUVAL HAS HAD WITH HIS TWO CHILDREN AND I WOULD DARE SAY THAT THIS COMMISSIONER COWAN WOULD BE WELCOME TO SIT IN ANY COURTHOUSE IN FAMILY COURT WITH MEAN SPIRITED CALLOUS DECISIONS AS THESE PORTRAYED IN THE DUVAL LEGAL CASE !!!!

**LAST MONDAY THIS SO CALLED GAY COMMISSIONER, AGAIN CONTINUED HIS CALLOUS DECISION MAKING IN THE DUVAL LEGAL CASE BY TURNING DOWN MR. DUVALS (AND ANY LOVING FATHERS NORMAL REQUEST) TO BE WITH HIS KIDS ON FATHERS DAY !

MR. DUVAL IS SUPPOSE TO ONLY GET 10 MINUTE PHONE CALLS EVERY NIGHT WITH HIS TWO KIDS (IF THE EX WIFE DECIDES TO EVEN PICK UP THE PHONE ?)

COMMISSIONER COWAN HAS ISOLATED TWO BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN FROM A LOVING FATHER WHO HAS SPENT YEARS HAVING FUN AT THE BEACH,HIKING IN THE SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS, RIDING SCOOTERS ALL OVER VENICE BEACH ETC...WITH HIS KIDS ???

*** PLEASE VISIT MR. DUVALS WEB SITE
BIGDADDYJAZZANDMAYA.COM TO SEE THE VIDEOS OF DAMON DUVAL WITH HIS KIDS AT THE LOCAL POOL, IN THE SCHOOLS ON SPECIAL EVENTS ..ETC

MR. DUVAL HAS SPENT YEARS ENJOYING AND LOVING HIS TWO CHILDREN TO HAVE THIS ONE MAN CONTINUE IN HIS VICIOUS ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY THE LOVING BOND HE HAS HAD WITH BOTH CHILDREN.

LAWYERS FOR POOR AMRICANS HAS INFORMED MR. DUVAL THAT WE WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR HIS GOD GIVEN RIGHT TO CONTINUE BEING THE LOVING FATHER TO BOTH LITTLE MAYA AND JAZZ !!!

SANTA MONICA COURT HOUSE HAS NOW BECOME A FUTURE BATTLE~ GROUND LOCATION FOR STRAIGHT FAMILIES IN AMERICA TO DEMAND TO HAVE THEIR COMMISSIONERS AND JUDGES NOT BE CLOSET GAYS OR OPEN GAYS DECIDING CHILD CUSTODY MATTERS !!!

THANK YOU COMMISSIONER COWAN FOR DEMONSTARTING TO STRAIGHT AMERICA THAT BIASED GAY MEN LIKE YOURSELF DO NOT RESPECT TRADITIONAL FAMILY VALUES AND SHOULD NEVER EVER BE IN FAMILY COURT OR EVER GIVEN CHILD CUSTODY LEGAL CASES !!!

Posted by: LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS | Jun 11, 2009 1:20:19 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB