meus intuitus

You Have No Right Not To Be Framed

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Two African-American boys were convicted of murder 25 years ago by an all-white jury, a witness who was a “known liar and perjurer,” and prosecutors who withheld good evidence that pointed to a white suspect who happened to be the brother-in-law of a local fire chief.  They were released, recently, when the Iowa Supreme Court overturned their convictions.

While the police have no immunity from framing suspects, prosecutors do seem to have that immunity.  They are free to convict based on “good evidence, bad evidence, or no evidence at all.”  That sounds terrible as is, but what about “fabricated evidence?”  Well, prosecutors across the country say that people have “no freestanding constitutional right not to be framed.”  The argument is that if prosecutors could be sued, then every person who felt they were wrongfully convicted would sue their prosecutors.

Really, though, prosecutor accountability is an excellent idea.  It’s one thing if prosecutors examine, appeal to the jury’s morals, use bad evidence, or use no evidence at all, but to fabricate evidence and to conspire against innocent men when good evidence points elsewhere–that is a completely different story.  Admittedly, prosecutors need to be free to do their jobs and lawyers have to be shrewd for a reason, but they can not be entirely without honor, without accountability; a line must be drawn somewhere–perhaps somewhere just before evidence fabrication and conspiracy.

Of course, “fabrication of evidence” can have gray areas, but that can be tolerated.  It is important for prosecutors to know that, under no circumstances, is it acceptable to outright frame an individual.  And when it is not so obvious–when bad evidence is embellished to fit–then prosecutors would know that the more they embellish it, the more danger they put themselves in to be convicted.

This kind of accountability is exactly what a justice system needs.

Speaking more broadly, this case makes me very bitter.  The profession I am entering holds a more rigorous level of accountability than any profession:  Medicine.  One mistake, and a doctor is liable to be sued.  A carpenter can make squeaky windows.  Police officers can shoot black kids.  The “justice” system can sentence innocent people to their deaths (it has happened).  However, physicians have to be perfect.  Any mistake, any human error (let alone deliberate dis-service/injustice), and he or she is liable to be sued.

Physicians-to-be endure rigorous coursework, cultivate their enthusiasm for life, people, and medicine, and apply to medical school only to have their motivations scrutinized.  In selecting applicants for admission, medical schools take a great deal of effort to make sure that the applicant is entering medicine for genuine reasons.  Applicants have to earn high marks, gain health care experience, perform on the most difficult professional school admissions test, and write essays just to have a chance at an interview with a medical school.  Then, at the interview, applicants have to prove themselves apt in communication, pure in self-reflection, loving of people, and passionate for medicine.

Doctors, as a group, are decent people–albeit a little egotistical, but decent nonetheless.  Despite this, they are one of the most sued groups of people in America.  Do law schools conduct interviews?  Rarely.  Instead of integrity, prosecutors have immunity.

Of course, that is not a fair statement!  I just could not resist.  Many prosecutors are fine individuals and they do need some level of immunity to do their jobs, but they still have to be accountable for any injustices they dare to commit.

P.S.  Go medical tort reform.  It would lower healthcare costs too.


Written by meusintuitus

November 4, 2009 at 9:20 pm

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