I’d like to thank the New York City Reproductive Justice Coalition for the honor of participating in the Reproductive Justice Media Training.
My sisters, you are fantabulous and I am so honored to have participated!
The news is all a flutter about the results of a report showing that at least 2,000 people convicted on crime were later exonerated in the United States. This news comes on the heals of news from Texas that a judge who reviewed the 2004 execution ofCameron Todd Willingham planned to posthumously exonerate him but never filed the paperwork.
That ain’t news to folks working at The Innocence Project or anti-death penalty activists…
…but it is news to all those people out there who like to think our criminal justice system is a shining example for the rest of the world.
So, here we are and there it is.
I can’t help wondering about the components within the criminal justice system that operate on the assumption that individuals have been rightly convicted.
What about the parole board?
I’m a crime buff, so I watch a lot of crime shows. When people appear before the parole board they are expected to apologize and explain how they now understand their crime and are prepared to never do it again. But if you are innocent…if you have always maintained your innocence and hope to one day be exonerated…well, those folk are usually chastised for not being reformed and denied parole.
Given the results of this study, will that assumption of a correct conviction be removed from the parole board’s consideration? And how the hell is that shit done?
And then there is the appeals process which usually denies the convicted the right to challenge the case. Instead, the convicted person has to show that some part of the case was handled inappropriately. The devil is in the details there, because a case can be handled properly and the defendant could simply not have the funds to gather evidence to overcome the state’s case.
We have a problem.
Our justice system is punishing innocent people.
It has killed innocent people.
And catch that knee and think for a moment…just think.
Exoneration does not automatically mean that a crime didn’t occur. It may, but it could just as easily mean that the wrong person was convicted for a very real crime.
For every wrongful conviction there is likely a criminal out and about in our communities…the wrongfully un-arrested who are free to continue and often shielded from arrest by a system allergic to self-examination.
Wrongful convictions are our problem…
…and none of us should sleep well with 2,000 cases exposed and who the fuck knows how many still lurking in the dark.