Sunday, January 10, 2016

Law and Order: Part Two, Prosecutors and Judges

There are good and just district attorneys and judges but my experience from outside the dock is that the system is chock full of unskilled and even corrupt people in both positions. As a juror, I've seen a judge fall asleep on the bench. I've know of one man who lost a legislative election and was appointed to a judgeship because he needed a job. I've seen a district attorney prosecute a man he knew was innocent as a favor to a friend.
It is not a Justice System. It is just a system. ~ Bob Enyart

Normally a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich if a prosecutor asks it to. ~ Chuck Robb

Judges are but men, and are swayed like other men by vehement prejudices. This is corruption in reality, give it whatever other name you please. ~ David Dudley Field

Capital punishment turns the state into a murderer. But imprisonment turns the state into a gay dungeon-master. ~ Jesse Jackson
Keeping Score
Ethics codes say that prosecutors should seek justice not convictions for their own sake. Yet district attorneys are all about keeping score. San Diego's DA Bonnie Dumanis is always touting her office's conviction rate, like that's a good thing. To her, and most other DAs, getting convictions is the only goal. If coercing plea deals from innocent people boost her stats then that's what she'll do.

Police Infallibility
No one is more vested in the concept that the police are incapable of error than district attorneys. To get their inflated statistics it is vital that courts see the police as godlike. That means corrupt or violent cops have to be given free passes lest the bad apples taint the public's unquestioning belief in police perfection.

My Friend, the Judge
Also vital to keeping an inflated conviction rate is insuring that the judge is your friend. The Orange County District Attorneys Office is about as corrupt as they come. For years they have been hiding exculpatory evidence to convict innocent people. In 2014, an actually honest judge, Thomas Goethals, discovered the tip of that scandal. Since then, the DA's office has repeatedly disqualifying Judge Goethals from hearing cases. This is common. DAs across the country will blackball judges who are insufficiently subservient to the prosecution.

Judge In My Pocket
For every Thomas Goethals there is a Judge Mark Ciavarella. Ciavarella, if you forgot, is one of the Pennsylvania judges who took bribes to sentence juveniles to for-profit prisons. Because most judges face elections, one way to legally buy justice is to elect your own judge. Massey Energy CEO Dan Blankenship paid over $3 million to elect West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin. Benjamin repaid that debt by being the deciding vote in a lawsuit Massey was involved in. Or, you can hire a judge's relative and funnel bribes that way. Clarence Thomas' wife has been hired to lobby her husband on several cases.

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