“better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”
There is a pureness in the law’s desire to be just, to ensure that every person in America receives due process and is judged by his or her peers based on the facts of the case as they are presented.
No where was this honorable intent best expressed but, by a flawed perhaps even beaten Frank Galvin played by Paul Newman in the movie The Verdict.
Now I know you will say that this was just a movie, but take a moment to absorb Galvin’s final address to the jury as he fights through the legal technicalities that have snatched truth and justice from his client;
Galvin: Well…You know, so much of the time we’re just lost. We say, “Please, God, tell us what is right. Tell us what is true.”
I mean there is no justice. The rich win; the poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie. And after a time we become dead, a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims — and we become victims. We become weak; we doubt ourselves; we doubt our beliefs; we doubt our institutions; and we doubt the law.
But today you are the law. You are the law, not some book, not the lawyers, not a marble statue, or the trappings of the court. See, those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are, in fact, a prayer, I mean a fervent and a frightened prayer.
In my religion, they say, “Act as if you had faith; faith will be given to you.”
If we are to have faith in justice we need only to believe in ourselves and act with justice. See, I believe there is justice in our hearts.
Unfortunately, and according to an article in today’s Washington Post (Convicted defendants left uninformed of forensic flaws found by Justice Dept.), no such belief resides in the heart of the American judicial system. Specifically, and I am quoting here, “Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people”
The flaw to which the article refers centers on what was called the “sloppy work by examiners at the FBI lab,” resulting in “unreliable forensic evidence in court trials.”
All right, so Houston we have a problem and its name is incompetence. A big problem to be certain but one, especially if you are an ardent believer in the principles and spirit of the Blackstone ratio as it is known, in which you would want to do everything in your power to make it right. At least one would not only think but indeed expect this from the American Justice Department. . . . long pause here waiting for an answer that sadly never comes.
You see rather than acknowledging this sloppy work, the Red, White and Blue justice machine buried it, leading to potentially thousands of trials at the federal, state and local levels being tainted by – let’s call it as it is here, false evidence. Aren’t you glad that the death penalty exists in some 34 of the 50 states?
So while both Democrats and Republicans sling nonsensical dribble back and forth dealing with such earth shattering issues such as what books the President reads or how Republicans are anti-women, fellow American citizens are being wrongfully convicted. Bravo!
Now my words may offend many, but wake-up America! Even the greatest of empires will fall when cynicism and the lack of faith in the judicial system is shaken. Similar to how close the country came to the collapse of its economy when not that long ago, our collective confidence in the bankers and Wall Street was seriously rattled, this disclosure while limited in terms of the breadth of its actual impact – the Post article talks about the wrongful conviction of hundreds of defendants, its effect is insidiously greater because it attacks the very character of what I still believe to be the greatest nation on earth.
Or to put it another way, money is just paper. It is the people or institutions behind it that give it its value. Justice and the law are no different in this regard. While it comes as no surprise to anyone that our faith in those who pull the financial strings of the country is low, I am not certain that a similar decline in confidence or the belief in the American justice system is one that the country can survive.
I am of course not talking about the good ol’ USA disappearing from the face the earth . . . at least not in the foreseeable future. What I am talking about is a slow and imperceptible decline in our hope and belief that we live in a just and decent country. I will leave it to you to decide how serious such a decline would be. However for me, and similar to when a cheating spouse is found out, while they can be forgiven – maybe, things are never the same. And this my friends is almost always the beginning of the end.
Or to coin a phrase from the song, “it’s the end of the world as we know it.”
By the way, the following is the video excerpt from the Galvin summation . . .