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Notably good justice systems? - Input Junkie
June 12th, 2011
01:20 pm

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Notably good justice systems?
I post a fair amount about destructive sloppiness in the US justice system, and I'm wondering about who does it better, and how could you tell?

Obviously, having more reasonable laws and moderate sentencing policies helps, but what about being meticulously trying to convict the guilty rather than the innocent, even if it means not convicting anyone? I'm not sure how better to phrase this-- it's not that the US system always convicts some random person if someone guilty can't be found (there are plenty of unsolved cases, including capital cases), it's that there's enough pressure to convict that innocent people get railroaded too often.

I'm inclined to think that confession may have no place in a legitimate justice system-- it's just too easy to get false confessions. In particular, plea bargaining has a high likelihood of getting false confessions.

And requiring convincing remorse means that innocent people who refuse to lie get worse treatment than guilty people do. Also, no one would explicitly say that having better social and/or acting skills should lead to better treatment if accused, but that's how rewarding convincing remorse plays out.

On the other hand, you don't necessarily want to treat people who say "I did it and I don't care" the same way you treat people who either say they're innocent or who are remorseful.

One of the things that's come out is some types of forensic evidence aren't solid. It's only been relatively recently discovered that ideas about evidence for arson were grossly inaccurate.

While so far as I know, people are still considered to have unique fingerprints, this doesn't mean that matching fingerprints which are incomplete or smudges is reliable.

And then there's bite mark evidence, which has not been scientifically checked, and has led to false convictions. (The material about the problems with bite mark evidence begins on page 9.)

Eyewitness testimony isn't as reliable as people want to think.

Exoneration from Dallas county-- the District Attorney Craig Watkins has made a major effort to exonerate innocent people.

I suppose one aspect of a high-quality justice system would be not convicting on a single piece of forensic evidence, especially if there's other evidence (alibis, lack of a criminal record) pointing towards innocence, and it would be nice if there were scientific evaluation of forensic evidence. Am I being too utopian?

One marker for a good justice system would people generally believing that convictions are not how you tell that the justice system is doing its job. Another would be not resisting additional evidence of innocence.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/485265.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:goodbyemyboy
Date:June 12th, 2011 07:12 pm (UTC)
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Fixing some of the issues with eyewitness identification would be the best start, I think. People are so inclined to believe eyewitness identification, and there is so much pressure on the victims to pick someone right now, even if the face is just close and not exact.
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From:madfilkentist
Date:June 12th, 2011 09:17 pm (UTC)
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Getting rid of senseless laws, such as marijuana laws, would help quite a bit. Many of the abuses aren't the result of either malice or stupidity, but of just being overburdened with so many cases.
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From:trinker
Date:June 13th, 2011 12:48 am (UTC)
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We have laws regarding the War on Some Drugs partly for racialized reasons...
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From:sodyera
Date:June 13th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
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The US cultural and legal outlook on law & order (not the series) hasn't really changed in a hundred years. Yeah, there's some newfangled stuff about respecting the guys you arrest, and giving coloured people and women the same rights as white men, but it doesn't trickle down all that well, not even in the industrialised northeast. Amadou Dialo was brutally abused a decade ago by NYPD officers basically because he was black and because they could get away with it. The majority of law enforcers in the US are still male and Caucasian and the upbringing in much of the interior is still based on what they learned around the time of Al Capone & Machine Gun Kelley.

Guns are romanticised and become the stars of the show in TV fiction and in criminal statistics. But rather than rewrite the 2nd Amendment to reflect modern realities, many people retract sphincter-like around this right to carry lethal force. So the gun is still king and reptile-brain fear remains the basis for criminal activity, fear of same and its retribution by the People. Technology may change but the culture hasn't, and so Justice remains the same. Even the laws of the peace-and-love planet Argelius ("Wolf in the Fold"--Classic Trek) remained brutal and unchanged since before their Great Cultural Awakening some long time before the Enterprise came around and allow a Scottsman to cross paths with an Evil Entity who'd have left him holding the bag for murder. Justice remains a relfection of the history of the culture involved, and that will probably not change.
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