When the Judicial System Victimizes Victims An underreported part of criminal justice reform
By US~Observer Staff
There have been 2,000 exonerations since the University of Michigan School of Law began tracking wrongful convictions in 1989. That means the government made 2,000 mistakes which resulted in an innocent life being wrongfully impriosned! These are just the known figures which do not include those falsely arrested and charged, whose charges were eventually dismissed, or the statistically probable tens-of-thousands of false convictions that remain unsolved, and will likely remain so. It also doesn’t take into account the many whom, on a daily basis, are coerced into plea deals through extortive measures by prosecutors who stack charges. Aside from those who have been wrongfully convicted, there is another set of victims – the original victims of the crimes, and/or the families of the victims who once thought justice was served.
One of the most underreported effects of wrongful conviction is the affliction felt by a murder victim’s family after being retraumatized by learning the wrong person was found guilty. Imagine that you entrusted the government to do the right thing, yet they framed an innocent and led you to believe their conviction was lawful. Next, you find out the prosecutor hid evidence that could have proved who the real killer was, which is what happened in Michael Morton’s case out of Texas. Morton lost 25 years of his life while the public and members of his family thought he’d murdered his own wife.
Ken Anderson, the prosecutor who withheld exculpatory evidence (evidence that shows innocence), when finally caught, accepted a plea deal and was ordered to spend ten days in jail. He only served five days before being released.
What about the parents, children, and other family members and friends of the deceased wife in Morton’s story? What about justice for them? They were fortunate as the real killer, Mark Norwood, has now been convicted for the murder that caused an innocent husband 25 years of his life. Unfortunately, other victims (murder) and thier families do not share the same outcome.
Opening up a chapter in the lives of victims’ families that deals with potential scenarios like the real murderer roaming free can cause extreme pain and suffering, doubt, and a host of psychological traumas.
Some victims’ families have gone on to meet with the exonerated to apologize, also in pursuit of finding the real perpetrator.
Thomas Sowell said it best, “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”
Once prosecutors and judges lose their implied immunity (inability to be sued) there will be much more hope for the wrongfully convicted and the families of victims who are retraumatized.
As a taxpayer, I would certainly hope that each person concerned with government accountability would equally be concerned with helping exonerate the innocent, just as they would support the victims’ family and the pursuit for the real criminal(s). Your tax money is wasted on wrongful prosecutions, incarceration, and costly compensation for mistakes made by those who rarely, if ever, pay a price for being wrong. Also, one should not forget the cost to reinvestigate these cases, some being decades old when discovered.
The first step toward freedom is knowledge! Understanding the effects of wrongful conviction is paramount to promoting a ‘free’ society. It is difficult to think of anything worse than the life of an innocent being taken unjustly. A great concern is that the movement for criminal justice reform will fall upon deaf ears… After all, we live in a society where someone burping on YouTube might just be more likely to go viral than this report. Let us change that – keep the cup of criminal justice reform half full by spreading awareness!