Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chicago Criminal attorney comments on Our Great Country's duty to protect the powerless

This Chicago Criminal attorney was alarmed this afternoon.  No, it wasn’t some righteous injustice at the trampling of the Constitution, it was a very sweet ten to fifteen pound apricot colored curly-haired pup.  Yes, you already know there’s a soft spot in my heart for curly-haired pups.  This sweetheart was running as if its life depended on it causing cars to brake at busy intersections as it bounded across Belmont at Lincoln today.

Making a swift U-turn, she tried to catch up to this pup running along the sidewalk but it had vanished.  Frantically, she searched the street for an injured pup, but there wasn’t one to be found.  She then took a path down a side street hoping to get into hearing range of the pup then just as she was about to give up, like a flash this curly-haired wonder was bounding across Greenwood (a much quieter street) and was now racing along the sidewalk on Belmont.  There were ridiculous traffic signs that said “no turn on red”.  Luckily, she had her blue-tooth headset on so she called 3-1-1.  She reported this little wonder and told the operator not to bother with Animal Control, any decent human being on patrol could get this little wonder if you could just catch it before it got harmed or caused humans to get harmed braking for it.

So what’s the point?  We live in a country where one of our strengths has been to take care of those who are less fortunate like the young, the frail, the less capable, and children.  No a dog doesn’t isn’t a human being but in civilized societies one measure of humanity is how we treat our animals.  So what do we do with the travesty inflicted on some of the least capable and youngest members of society?  Those that need our protection to protect themselves from self-inflicted harms in the form of false confession.  These are not cases of the accused being “not guilty”.  These are cases where the accused is innocent.

From the nytimes.com:
Eddie Lowery lost 10 years of his life for a crime he did not commit. There was no physical evidence at his trial for rape, but one overwhelming factor put him away: he confessed.
 DNA evidence would later show that another man committed the crime. But that vindication would come only years after Mr. Lowery had served his sentence and was paroled in 1991.
But more than 40 others have given confessions since 1976 that DNA evidence later showed were false, according to records by Brandon L. Garrett, a professor at the University School of Law. Experts have long known that some kinds of people — including the mentally impaired, the mentally ill, the young and the easily led — are the likeliest to be induced to confess. There are also people like Mr. Lowery, who says he was just pressed beyond endurance by persistent interrogators.
To defense lawyers, the new research is eye opening. “In the past, if somebody confessed, that was the end,” said Peter J. Neufeld, a founder of the Innocence Project, an organization based in Manhattan. “You couldn’t imagine going forward.”
The notion that such detailed confessions might be deemed voluntary because the defendants were not beaten or coerced suggests that courts should not simply look at whether confessions are voluntary, Mr. Neufeld said. “They should look at whether they are reliable.”
Professor Garrett said he was surprised by the complexity of the confessions he studied. “I expected, and think people intuitively think, that a false confession would look flimsy,” like someone saying simply, “I did it,” he said.
Instead, he said, “almost all of these confessions looked uncannily reliable,” rich in telling detail that almost inevitably had to come from the police. “I had known that in a couple of these cases, contamination could have occurred,” he said, using a term in police circles for introducing facts into the interrogation process. “I didn’t expect to see that almost all of them had been contaminated.”
Of the exonerated defendants in the Garrett study, 26 — more than half — were “mentally disabled,” under 18 at the time or both. Most were subjected to lengthy, high-pressure interrogations, and none had a lawyer present. Thirteen of them were taken to the crime scene.

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