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Old 04-12-2012, 07:46 AM   #34
Tannhauser
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gaspers04 View Post
Wow. I spent the last 20 years of my life behind these walls, I know what I am talking about. The food isnt better, they dont spend hours upon hours in a "gym" and the walls arent over flowing with the wrongfully convicted. I see the worst of the worst everyday, I am now in the courtrooms with them everyday now on their appeals,post conviction petitions,etc etc... I hear the gory details of each case and the facts presented to prove that conviction. The facts are brought before the jury, judge or between council in layman terms and when that isnt possible it, being the technical terminology, explained by an expert witness so that the layman can understand clearly. Unless you have spent time in law enforcement or the legal profession you have absolutely no clue to what is going on. Im not trying to be an ass but this is my life, I walk amongst the convicted. My apologies if I have offended anyone.
Hi Gaspers,

I just want to respond to the second part of your post, as I commented specifically on the possibility of wrongful conviction.

Just to be clear, I'm not disputing the following:

1) the vast majority of people behind bars have committed the crimes of which they are accused

2) The accuracy of convictions has improved.

3) That in the majority of cases, juries are in a good position to weigh up the evidence.


However, I'm sounding a more general note of caution about the judicial system and the belief that modern technology makes it almost entirely trustworthy. Here are my reasons:

1) Firstly, there is no way of independently verifying the number of wrongful convictions. If we had a universal video system that recorded every human action and could be rewound to observe every thought and action, from multiple perspectives, then we could. All we ever have are testimonies and evidence, and the opinions formed from these. I guess this is really a philosophical point, but maybe it's relevant because every age thinks that it's judicial system is near perfect - then the subsequent generation finds flaws with their evidence.

2) Jurors tend to give great credence to scientific evidence, but don't have the tools to think critically about that evidence. And expert witnesses get it wrong. The first cases to spring to mind are those of 'Shaken Baby Syndrome', where quite a few parents were convicted of shaking their infant children to death. However, it turns out that there are a number of medical conditions that can produce similar symptoms, and a substantial number of convictions were overturned in the US, Canada and the UK. A British pathologist (I forget the name) famously represented the odds of two babies dying within the same family as being very, very low - and secured convictions on that basis -but that was highly misleading.

Point is that most people think that things can be 'scientifically proven' and in the notion of 'scientific fact' - which is a fundamental misunderstanding of how science works.

3) Convictions that seemed incredibly safe in the 1970s were overturned in the 1980s, those in the 1990s were overturned in the 2000s - and so on. To give one example of this, the prison time served by people wrongly convicted on eye witness testimony totals 3,800 years (average 13.5 years). This is just in the US, just cases turned on the basis of DNA evidence, and just since 2000 (see here. So it seems reasonable to think that the same pattern of overturning convictions will follow in the future.

No technology, including DNA evidence and CCTV footage, is infallible.

No one, including me, disrespects your personal experience or your commitment to a job which must be extremely demanding. However, I question the idea that only somone working within the system can have a valid opinion on it.

Interesting subject.
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