Published: 18 April 2018
It's not perfect, but the US has the best criminal justice system in the world! Really???
I used to hear that phrase thrown around all the time. Perhaps it still is, but not in my circles. It was used as a preface before making a criticism. People want to improve the system, but not appear to be unpatriotic or unappreciative for what we have. I also have learned that it is a statement made by people who have no personal experience with our criminal justice system.
Corruption can be from the top down when there is wrongdoing by the authorities. It can also permeate as a more insipid systemic cancer, where those with money or influence are given preferential treatment. From traffic tickets up through murder, a lot more poor people and people of color are convicted and wrongfully convicted. You might call it a legalized corruption.
Case in point: I've just watched a 50-minute video of a case that has been with Proving Innocence from our beginning: Fred Freeman (Temujin Kensu). Not only is it depressing as to what happened to an innocent person, but to hear the details of the things that were done by the authorities would shock and disillusion any law-abiding citizen.
Fred could not afford to hire his own attorney. The sheriff told him that he knew of a good defense attorney. So Fred asked the judge to appoint as counsel the guy the sheriff recommended. Beware of strangers bearing gifts! Dean was an orchestrated plant. Little did Fred know that Dean had earlier worked in the prosecutor's office, had recently been the attorney for the lead police investigator in Fred's case, was involved in business dealings with people in the prosecutor's office and was abusing drugs during the trial. The problems go even deeper. And Fred thought the sheriff was trying to be a nice guy by giving him some good advice! To get more on this story, watch Justice Incarcerated, The Frederick Freeman Story.
It is disillusioning that in our system a person can be convicted based on character assassination alone with absolutely no credible evidence. (Unless you consider a jailhouse snitch where the prosecutors exchanged favors for perjured testimony to be credible!) The disillusionment goes further when after 32 years the system has not been able to correct this injustice.
Currently, Fred's case is being worked on two fronts: an appeal to the Governor for commutation of the sentence, for which we are sponsoring a petition so that the Governor knows what the people think about this, and a habeas appeal. If you've not signed the petition, please click on the link. Thanks!
Back to the question of how good our criminal justice system is: Compared to other countries, US law enforcement shoots its citizens 20 times as often as other countries. When we compare the percentage of our population that is imprisoned (the most in the world), the recidivism rate, and the disproportion of specific groups of people incarcerated, no objective person can any longer say we have the best, though imperfect system in the world. (We always admit our imperfections because a little humility sprinkled in when we assert our greatness is very American.) No, the unfortunate conclusion is that our criminal justice system is not a well-measured solution to crime in the U.S. Unfortunately, it is part of the problem.