Monday, June 30, 2008

In Your Face Convictions

There has been an appalling amount of innocence in convicted criminals brought out in Project Innocence testing, something that has made our courts seem like a very faulty cog in the wheels of justice.

Have seen several recently uncovered huge mistakes that have put innocent people in jail, and as Avedon mentioned recently, it's impossible to forgive some one when you've been part of establishing their guilt. I see this tragedy working itself out nearby here in North TX, in a case that has been unraveling.

Just a few paragraphs into the Star-Telegram story, the woman knew something was terribly wrong. A man named Lester Leroy Bower Jr. was on Death Row for the 1983 massacre of four men in a Sherman airplane hangar, she read that morning in 1989. But the woman, who asked to be identified by the pseudonym "Pearl," had reason to believe that Bower wasn’t the killer at all — that it was her ex-boyfriend and three others who had committed the crime.

The woman showed the story to her sister, the one person she had told of her suspicions about the old boyfriend.

"They’re going to put that guy to death for that," she remembers her sister saying.

"Yeah, I know," Pearl replied.

"But he didn’t do it?"

"No," Pearl said.

"You’ve got to do something," the sister said.
"There’s no way there is actual innocence here," (Grayson County prosecutor Karla) Hackett said, citing the large amount of circumstantial evidence against Bower. "DNA is not going to make all that go away. It’s another delaying tactic. It’s normal. We expect it. There’s four dead men, and all the evidence points straight to Lester Leroy Bower Jr."

The wife of victim Philip Good says she is also convinced the right man was convicted. Marlene Bushard, who has since remarried and is living in Arizona, said her husband would have turned 30 the day after his death. He left an infant son, Curtis Good, who is now 25.
Bower did not testify during his capital murder trial in April 1984. Grayson County jurors deliberated less that two hours before convicting him on four counts of capital murder, and the next day he was sentenced to die. Bower, now 60, says he can understand how the jury reached its verdict, how his own account could be considered suspect because of the lies he told to investigators.

But the new witness has no reason to lie, he says.

"OK, don’t believe me," Bower said recently in prison. "Don’t believe anything I say. I’m not the one who has come forward and finally told exactly what happened out there."

The tragedy here has extended to all the parties, and the conviction is obviously flawed deeply and quite likely to be wrong. The incidence of false convictions has made our courts' methods, and its personnel, more than suspect.

Recently, talkleft posted on a wrongful conviction in a Lubbock, TX crime, a conviction that can't be undone because its victim has died.

The DA who prosecuted the case is now a judge. This is the closest he's going to come to apologizing:

"There's not a whole lot you can say to the point of someone's life being taken, knowing that probably wouldn't have happened but for the fact that he was convicted," Darnell said.

Like the one working its way out here - the accusers are as damaged as the wrongfully convicted. Establishing some one as guilty when it takes twisting evidence, and later being proved wrong, is self destruction as surely as are the more violent crimes.

The present Dallas AG has opened his files to Project Innocence workers, who are mostly volunteers. This needs to be done throughout the legal system.

Prosecution has been persecution too many times. A good hard look at how we elect judges in TX, and how they qualify for appointments elsewhere, is badly needed.

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OpenID lakelobos said...

The whole American judicial system requires fundamental review. Ours is the worst system of any democracy.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Woody (Tokin' Lib'rul/Rogue Scholar & O'erall Helluvafella!) said...

Do you have lexis/nexis? I wish i could find the cite, in the Nation (iirc), about 12 years ago, reporting a study in which almost 50% of Murkins supported the death penalty even when they were told there was a 100 % certainty that innocent people would be executed.

Izzis a grate cunchry'rwat?

8:43 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

The increasing incidents of DNA evidence overturning convictions has opened a lot of eyes about the errors this system has made. I think it's making a big difference.

4:48 AM  

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