Truth In Justice Website
TruthinJustice.org is a great resource for anyone desiring concrete and recent evidence that serious problems exist within the criminal justice system in the U.S. today. For those people who still live with their heads in the sand, insisting only "criminals" plead "guilty," and that only "guilty" people end up in prison, this site is here to burst that insulated bubble.
A WEBREVIEW of Truth In Justice ( http://www.truthinjustice.org)
by Kirsten Anderberg (www.kirstenanderberg.com)
TruthinJustice.org is a great resource for anyone desiring concrete and recent evidence that serious problems exist within the criminal justice system in the U.S. today. For those people who still live with their heads in the sand, insisting only "criminals" plead "guilty," and that only "guilty" people end up in prison, this site is here to burst that insulated bubble. Long lists of actual names and court cases on this site document a wide swath of abuse from the state that no one can deny. The site says, "The case profiles here consist primarily of media reports, the majority of which are accounts of wrongfully convicted persons who have been exonerated. The articles profiling the innocent who remain imprisoned provide details of compelling evidence of innocence. The reason is simple: People just don't believe that anyone who is innocent can be convicted of a crime he or she did not commit, much less that it can happen to them. It is our hope that the number and strength of the cases presented here can erode the wall of denial. Then we can all get down to the business of rectifying the errors that have destroyed so many lives."
I am very impressed by the thoroughness and professional presentation of this site. It is an educational site and should be required reading by all high school students. The site says its purpose is "to educate the public regarding the vulnerabilities in the U. S. criminal justice system that make the criminal conviction of wholly innocent persons possible. When we say "wholly innocent," we mean a person who had absolutely no part in the crime charged. An innocent person is deprived of life, liberty and the opportunity to contribute to society, while the guilty party is free to commit more crimes against unsuspecting victims. In many instances, no crime was committed in the first place -- a suicide is charged as homicide, or an accidental fire is mistaken for arson. How does this happen? Faulty eyewitness identification, tunnel vision investigators, over zealous prosecutors, bad science, compromised experts and a politicized judiciary are major factors, along with a credulous public. Why should you be concerned about wrongful conviction? The cases here make the answer clear: it can happen to anyone, including you. What can you do? Educate yourself. Ask questions. Think. Stop rewarding malfeasance. It starts with just one person. It starts with YOU."
A "sampling of recent cases" displayed on this site, demonstrates "both the potential for injustice and the difference that individuals can make in preventing it." The "Recent Cases" page includes approximately 200 cases, mostly from the last 5 years, from across the U.S.A., where people served long prison terms for crimes they did not commit, and these people are now walking free after years of trauma and abuse, released to their lives which were shattered by the state. But we must not just blame the prosecutors. Alas, the public defenders *could have* stopped the wrongs as well, that was their job, and many of the prosecutors' mistakes, that later lead to the release of these victims, were obvious at the time of trial. Also complicating matters is the fact that these coerced plea bargains erase the right to an appeal, prolonging the rectification of these abuses. The listed reasons that these cases were overturned are amazing. They are widely varied, from new DNA evidence, to journalists digging up evidence the prosecutors overlooked, to obvious misconduct by prosecutors and outright lying by police. If you ever needed evidence that the criminal justice system fails innocent people, this is a good page to refer people to.
Their "Innocent Imprisoned" page says, "Some fears are universal. Death. Disease. The loss of a child. Going to a jail for something you didn't do. The people listed here are living the last one, their lives wasting away in prison for crimes they did not commit." This page lists approximately 70 names from across America, including specific information about their cases. A "Wrongfully Convicted Cops" page lists cases where cops had odd convictions. One highlighted case is about a cop who let an innocent cop sit in jail for 6 years for a crime the guilty cop committed, and the guilty cop just turned himself in, supposedly due to conscience. But now, the innocent cop cannot get his job on the police force back, etc.
This site's "Death Penalty" page addresses serious issues and problems with death penalty cases. This page has a very haunting picture of Gary Graham, pictured in his prison uniform, with his fist raised, inside the jail. He was executed by Texas, even though there were "serious doubts about his guilt." There is a wealth of information here for anyone desiring intelligent critique of the death penalty in America. The page also gives over 50 examples of problematic death penalty cases.
"Eyewitness identification is one of the most potent and effective tools available to police and prosecutors. It is compelling, and time after time, it convinces juries of the guilt of a defendant. The problem is, eyewitness identifications are WRONG at least 50% of the time!" The site then gives actual cases and arguments about wrongful convictions based on faulty eyewitness identifications. "Junk Science in the Courtroom" is another area this site covers, saying, "Juries usually believe expert witnesses. Unfortunately, juries rarely understand the expert testimony they hear, and don't know what weight -- if any -- to give to terms like "consistent with" and "matching" and "virtually excluded." The lawyers and the judge rarely understand the science that is presented by these experts, either. Our criminal justice system is adversarial and often dog-eat-dog. When the expert falls short of the minimum standards of the profession, or worse, is an outright fraud, it can spell disaster for the wrongly accused." The Junk Science page then lays out a list of cases where bad science has wrongly convicted people.
Wrongful conviction of arson, oddly, has its own page. ""When there's a fatal fire and someone survives, the survivor will be charged with arson and murder." ~ Gerald Hurst, Ph.D.," the page says. There is also a page for "False Child Abuse Claims," which is the only controversial part of this website that I saw. This is a serious and thorny issue, and one that perhaps cannot be reduced to a page in the manner it has been here. Or rather, perhaps this site's owners do not have proper experience and expertise in this area to address this issue with the respect and dignity that it deserves. I noticed lacking on this page were cases of children abused by the state, in various forms, such as child protection institutions, foster care, et al. This page seemed to have too many familial, custody, and divorce, components, that were questionable, for my comfort, in all honesty. And the discouragement of reported sexual abuse has gone on for so long, that we must think about throwing the "false accusations" term around so lightly, in my opinion. But, as I said, this is the only weak link on this site.
There are many innocent and/or ignorant souls out there who still believe police do not lie. Yet one visit to this site's extensive "Police, Prosecutorial and Judicial Misconduct" page should throw up some serious topics for debate. Their "How the System Works" page ( http://www.truthinjustice.org/systemworks.htm) is fabulous. It is packed with testimonies from people whose lives have been ruined by faulty criminal prosecutions and inhumane treatment by the criminal (in)justice system. Misrepresentations, outright misconduct by prosecutors, coerced plea bargains, and more, fill this educational page.
The site also is a resource for Innocence Projects around the country. "Innocence Projects provide representation and/or investigative assistance to prison inmates who claim to be innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. There is now at least one innocence project serving each state except Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota. Most of these innocence projects are new and overwhelmed with applications, so waiting time between application and acceptance is long. Wrongfully convicted persons should not be dissuaded from applying to Innocence Projects because of this, but should have realistic expectations regarding acceptance and time lags." The site also offers an excellent "recommended reading" list, a discussion board, and a monthly online newsletter on this site.
But most importantly, this site has its own "Life After Exoneration" ( http://www.truthinjustice.org/tjf.htm) page. That is an issue not talked about nearly enough. The page says, "The wrongly convicted face further injustices when they are exonerated. Unlike parolees, they are entitled to no social services, no job training and placement, no counseling to help them adjust to living in a dramatically different society than the one they left years earlier. In many instances, family and friends who supported them have died. Few states offer any financial compensation for their ordeal, and employers are wary of hiring them. Just as innocence projects were formed across the country to free the wrongly convicted, so too are resettlement programs being formed to help them after they have been released." One can easily see how a person could become a victim of the state's abuse twice in the situation of wrongful incarceration for years of your life. We must help these people, even though the state just chews them up, and then just spits them out. How broken must a soul be after such trauma? These people deserve our help, they are battered, for sure. This website is a good place to find ways to hook up with information and organizations addressing these issues of dire import, such as "life after exoneration" and "junk science in the courtroom."
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