Thursday, November 15, 2007

Prosecuting Self-defense

JusticeUNEQUAL JUSTICE Murderers on Probation If you kill someone in self-defense should the Injustice System offer you a deal of probation so you don't have to face a murder trial? Would you sit in jail for months awaiting that trial?

A 17-year-old trying to escape an abusive relationship was offered exactly that choice. It sucks, and the police and the DA that brought the charges and manipulated the systems should be the ones in trouble.
A Dallas Morning News review of the 56 probation-for-murder cases in North Texas from 2000 through 2006 found that a dozen were especially weak. Some, like Ms. Fox's, had strong self-defense arguments. Some involved people who were charged with murder as accomplices, although the evidence connecting them to the crime was tenuous.

In one case, the killer's identity was in doubt, and prosecutors admitted in confidential documents that they could not prove the man they accused was guilty. In another, the medical examiner said he wasn't sure a homicide had even occurred.

Most of these prosecutions occurred in Dallas County, where the justice system has a long and embarrassing history of punishing innocent people. DNA tests have exonerated 13 men who went to prison for rape or murder – more than any other county in the nation. Dozens more were jailed in recent years after being framed with fake drugs.
This is more than a rouge cop having a bad day. This is a government system that is broken. It is not interested in enforcing the law. It is not interested in Justice. It only wants to win cases, and throw people in jail. Guilty or innocent doesn't matter to them.
Mr. Schuwerk said that prosecuting under such circumstances endangers not just individual defendants, but also the integrity of the justice system.

"One of the tragic byproducts of this is going to be that people in communities that have a high level of contact with the police and the prosecutors are going to come to distrust them," he said, "and to not cooperate with them even in cases where it would be in everyone's interest for them to cooperate."
And distrust them with good reason.

When the Brett Darrow videos came to light, many law enforcement officers claimed it was an isolated incident. That the vast majority of police are really trying to do the right thing. In Dallas, it seems that the entire criminal justice system is more interested in getting people classified as criminal than it is in justice. And Chicago has had more than its share of problems.

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