Prosecute the Prosecutors Who Wrongly Convicted Says Pauley

From a St. Petersburg Times (September 6, 1999) editorial by Robert Pauley:

(Lightly edited for Justice Denied)

Wrongful Convictions: A National Outrage -- With One Possible Solution:

Prosecuting the Prosecutors That Put Them There

Have we reached the end of sanity?

In Florida prosecutors are blocking DNA testing for convicts who claim innocence. They cite a procedural rule that gives the defense two years to submit a motion to reopen a case on the basis of new evidence. Incredibly, they contend that even if a DNA test proves a person is innocent, it's too late to overturn the conviction.

This callous attitude demonstrates how innocent people are convicted in the first place: Winning is more important to the prosecutor than truth or justice. Prosecutors contend the two-year limit provides a sense of finality to the process, allowing crime victims peace of mind. What about the peace of mind of those innocently incarcerated?

The State has a compelling interest not only to punish the guilty, but also to operate guilt-free and error-free to protect the innocent. The time has come to demand an end to this epidemic injustice.

And here's how. First, understand the enormity of the problem:

Dateline: NY (From an AP story) -- From attorney Barry Scheck's The Innocence Project, a 60 year-old man who spent 17 years in prison for rape became a free man Wednesday (September 1, 1999). DNA evidence testing showed that he was not guilty of this crime. He is the 62nd such inmate in the United States to be exonerated by DNA testing by Scheck's group.

Dateline: Chicago (From an AP story) -- Northwestern University has documented 82 wrongfully convicted death row inmates since 1976. They were found to be not guilty of the crimes for which they had been convicted and have been since released. Florida leads the nation in these wrongful death row convictions with 20.

Dateline: Austin (From a NY Times story) -- An innocent man, David Wayne Spence, is executed by the state of Texas on April 3, 1997. Said Robert Snelson, one of the inmates who testified in that trial: "We all fabricated our accounts of Spence confessing in order to try to get a break from the state on our cases."

According to Governor George W. Bush, in a letter to writer Bob Pauley: "When I was sworn in as the Governor of Texas, I took an oath of office to uphold the laws of our state, including the death penalty."

At least 25 innocents have been executed in the U.S. this century. "Kill 'em all, let God sort it out!" seems to be the arrogant response of the establishment to the growing number of wrongful convictions.

This random wholesale incarceration of the innocent is primarily a problem with prosecutors, caused by politics, permitted by an uncompassionate system of justice. As death row inmate Paul William Scott recently observed, "They fear rejection by the voters if they cannot boast: "I prosecuted 99 cases and lost only one. I sent 13 to death row. I'm a winner!" Rock stars have their hit records, prosecutors have their prosecutions -- it's a numbers game."

It is a numbers game that is very, very wrong. The following is my solution to this national outrage.

I propose a new law of the land: For each and every wrongful conviction overturned, an automatic jury must convene. The prosecutor will then be placed on trial for his or her actions, as he wrongfully did to his earlier innocent prey. If it is determined that he acted in haste or in arrogance to satisfy his constituents, or his ego, then he shall suffer the same fate his wrongfully convicted faced: A day for a day, a year for a year, a life for a life.

We urgently need this law passed. Now that we are aware of this national outrage, we need to make wrongful convictions our highest moral and ethical priority until justice is fairly served for one and all. I urge you, concerned citizens, to contact your legislators and let them know it is time to end this insanity.

Contact Robert Pauley at: BPauley@compuserve.com

Justice Denied