Criminal Records: Just How Just Do You Think The Justice System Is?


The truth is out there if anyone would bother to look for it

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What do you expect from a justice system in a civilised society? Fairness, forgiveness perhaps, justice of course. I bet that you also expect the justice system to tirelessly search out the truth and be careful when evidence, or lack of it suggests doubt. We all want the guilty to be punished but not at the expense of the innocent who often also get punished. Do you think that this is the way your justice system works?

I once thought that the system must work like that. That the agencies would be working just as hard to protect innocent suspects as they are to convict the ones who are really guilty. A recent case involving a friend of mine has changed my mind forever. He was charged with rape when his DNA was matched to a crime committed 15 years earlier. It can be said that there is no evidence to prove either guilt or innocence and he maintains his innocence. So why was he convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison?

The police are more interested in the conviction than they are with finding the truth?

Do you believe that the police and legal teams work together to uncover the truth of a case to ensure that an innocent defendant would be cleared of any charges against him?

That is indeed how it should happen in any common sense based world but not, it seems, in ours. The police had a suspect and after 15 years they were not interested in investigating other possibilities. The passage of time, the destruction of evidence by the police and fading or non existent memories from the time meant that the police had the upper hand.

There was no evidence over and above the DNA match which proves neither that the defendant committed the crime or even that any crime was committed at all. You might think that the case would be dropped at this point due to lack of evidence but oh no. They must have thought "We don't know if he did it so lets let a jury decide" and proceed they did. Now what part of any sane justice system involves using a jury as a substitute for evidence? None in my book, how about you?

The jury can not be expected to make the right decision every time

Did the prosecution believe in this case? They had almost 2 years to prepare and yet they were completely unprepared. They made numerous errors, many to the detriment of the defendant. They conducted themselves with an air of resignation to failure. It must have been a real champaign moment for them when the jury came back with a guilty verdict.

There is now one more innocent man doing a long custodial sentence. He is now branded a criminal. His name will be forever tarnished. He is condemned to a lifetime of unemployment and public disgrace.

The justice system needs to change. We will never have the right to call our society civilized until we have a justice system that is more interested in finding the truth than it is about personal gain and career advancement. Why does someone always have to pay the price even if it is the wrong person? Don't forget that the real guilty person remains out there, potentially committing crimes as we speak. Why is no one looking for the real criminal?

How many innocent people are there in prison?

Since I have been researching this case I have learned that the conviction of innocent, or at least factually innocent people has become far more common than you could ever imagine. You don't have to dig too much to find accounts of many alleged crimes where the evidence just does not make sense. The defendants were convicted nevertheless.

The police will go to great lengths to find or extract evidence that helps a conviction at the expense of evidence that could prove innocence. They are incentivised to convict people. There is no incentive for them to spend any time at all looking for evidence of innocence.

The jury have an impossible task

In court, the job of the prosecution is to get the conviction, it is not their job to find the truth. The jury have an unbelievably difficult job of making sense of biased and unreliable evidence with no training or expertise to help them perform the task. Is it any wonder that they decide with their emotions rather than the facts. Especially when there are no facts to consider. They are more likely to return a verdict of guilt because they don't like someone than they are to look at all the factual evidence objectively.

Think about this the next time you background check someone to look up their criminal record or arrest record. Not everyone that is arrested or even convicted, is guilty.

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Author: Steve Gee

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