Monday, December 12, 2011

'No Country for Innocent Men'

In a article with the same title as this post, Mother Jones takes a in-depth look at Timothy Cole's false conviction and the sad, bizarre circumstances that caused Governor Rick Perry to pardon a dead man. See a related sidebar from the story estimating how many innocent people are still in prison.


Anonymous said...

From the linked articles:
"In January 1985, he [Cole] was robbed outside a party, and when he reported the crime, police found some marijuana and a gun in his pocket. (He was charged with a misdemeanor.)"

Call me a dummy if you want, but Cole doesn't sound like the squeaky clean kid people make him out to be. True, he may not have committed rape or murder, but I can't help but wonder how much easier it would have been to mount a defense if he had no previous trouble with the law. By nature, the justice system is somewhat like the fire department: wherever there's smoke, there must be a fire. What happened to Cole is a tragedy, and a miscarriage of justice. What's equally as tragic is that the real perpetrator went undiscovered. However, if you don't want the law looking in your direction, then keep your name off of their "most likely to commit another crime" list. You will be doing yourself - and the law - big favor.

Anonymous said...

While were at it 4:13, let's blame the victim for getting raped. I'm sure she did something to cause it.

Prison Doc said...

Comments like 4:13's serve a very useful purpose: they show how long the struggle will be to restore honesty and sanity to the local criminal justice systems.

Nick said...

Ok Anon 4:13, you're a dummy.

Anonymous said...

4:13pm, you only prove the need for a better criminal justice system and more intelligent thinkers here in Texas. And if you're a christian and you've sinned(I'm sure you have) then you must be guilty of ALL Sins, right? So you are bound for hell.

FleaStiff said...

While everyone else is condemning this Anonymous 413 character, let us pause to reflect that often the decisions of the police, prosecutors and the juries are indeed based on things other than "solely admissible evidence".

We ask how many men are innocent and still in prison but we never seem to ask how many crimes were committed by men who escaped incarceration due to strict adherence to matters of proof in earlier proceedings.

The criminal justice system is a very expensive and inefficient system beset with whimsical decision making and obsolete, often absurd, presumptions.

Squeaky clean, blond haired, blue eyed, right-handed defendants are entitled to the protections of our legal system but as Virgil Tibbs said during In The Heat Of The Night "there is two kinds of time you can do: White time and Colored Time". Its the same way prior to conviction: all interaction with the police and prosecutor is always subject to the underlying perceptions of are you dealing with squeaky clean or not.

No Country For Old Men? Right. The sheriff didn't cite the truck driver for the tarp having come loose: he was a hard working white man. The sheriff is concerned with those who went hunting trouble and found it amongst the Mexican Dopers.

That's the way its always been and that's the way it always will be.
Drugs and a concealed firearm? He was probably partying with the similarly minded. And the similarly foolish.

Fine distinctions? The law does not make such fine distinctions. The rich man is prohibited from sleeping on the park bench just as much as the poor man. He is just less likely to do it and more likely to be sent on his way by the cops. Thats the way it is.

ckikerintulia said...

To 4:13 and especially to Flea Stiff:

That's the way it is alright. Although the preamble to the constitution--or is it in the declaration of independence--one of those important founding documents says "All men [sic] are created equal." The gender designation is no accident. Women were not equal. Colored men were only 3/5 equal. Strict constructionists would have to undo women's suffrage, go back to slavery or at least Jim Crow--which would not be universally unpopular.

That's the way it is, but it's not the way it has to be. Thank God for Grits, Sojo, Friends of Justice and others for pointing out and seeking to correct the way it is. Since it's Advent season a little dose of Mary's Magnificat is appropriate. (It's appropriate anytime).

"He has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
And lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And sent the rich away empty."

Read it and weep, all you advocates of the way things are!

David O'Niell said...

And the rape victim shouldn't have- dressed- like- that--

Anonymous said...

It is not just a 'color' thing, or even a 'bad guy' thing. What about a school teacher that has taught many years, and one student makes a grade s/he doesn't think s/he deserves, and cries "abuse" and add the "sex" word to it, and the teacher has no where to turn. The media blows it out of proportion, and to most of the local folks Teacher is GUILTY. And school district will probably have to dismiss said teacher to getthe one student's parents to not file on school district. Guilty?? usually not, but once the media has mentioned a professional's name with any bad word it is too late for that person to move forward with his/her life and the life of family. Same can be said for a minister. For some reason Ministers and Teachers are especially put on a pedestal.

We should all remember that only the ones that are without guilt are allowed to throw stones. And I have yet met that guiltless person.

Anonymous said...

@4:13 Last time I looked it up, the debate over concealed handguns was still going on in 85 and to that point 75% of the prosecutions were being overturned under the 68 law, and Brady law didn't happen till 93 so why would possessing a firearm make him "most likely to commit a crime" in 1985. Oh, the pot! I continue to get so frustrated with people like you. I would like to send you over to Amsterdam or Portugal and make you live amongst legal pot smokers who suprisingly go to school, church, have jobs, families, and DON'T go to prison. You better take your concealed handgun with you though since you are convinced like LEO's are that all of them are "likely to commit a crime"! Maybe you could go and "misrepresent a fish" then the prosecutor will have something to enhance your misdemeanor with.

Anonymous said...

12/13/2011 it doesn't matter how legal pot or concealed handguns are in other countries. What matters is they were against the law here when Cole got popped for it. And, whine all you want to about equal treatment. The fact is, that when you call attention to yourself by breaking the law, you bring scrutiny upon yourself from that point on for quite some time. And, rightfully so. For example, we don't put the average level-headed person on suicide watch. We put the person on suicide watch who has a history of attempts who might be prone to carry it out.

Kevin Stouwie said...

This is an interesting discussion about how the "law" often treats people differently, particularly if the person in question has a criminal record, or even if the person in question "looks" like a criminal.

Cops do it, prosecutors do it, judges do it, and juries do it too. Heck, to some extent, everyone does it or has done it.

While it is regrettable, it seems to be hard wired into people's brains to draw quick conclusions and then work backwards and look at information in such a way so that things that validate the conclusion are quickly identified and given lots of weight, while things that tend to undermine the conclusion are discounted or disregarded altogether.

Perhaps one way to help avoid such behaviors is to periodically train people in positions of power within the business of accusing, arresting, prosecuting, judging, etc. to keep an open mind, and guard against this innate tendency to stereotype or make unwarranted assumptions. It wouldn't eliminate the behavior, but it would help keep it under control.

A person's priors may be relevant some times in order to identify a pattern of behavior or a general "criminal mindset", but a drug possession charge 10 years ago should not have ANYTHING to do with a fight over a girl while one is in a bar, or a search while one is being pulled over for speeding.

Anonymous said...

Sure, innocent until proven guilty is the law of the land as it should be. However, that doesn't mean you're beyond suspicion, depending upon your previous criminal history. The police would be absolutely foolish for trying to solve crimes without first looking at prior criminal histories.