May 14, 2007
The Innocence Project announced that the 200th person falsely imprisoned has been exonerated because of DNA evidence. He is Jerry Miller, who spent 25 years in prison for rape, robbery, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated battery. Now 48, he spent more than half his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He was home watching TV when the attack occurred. A spokesman for the Cook County, Illinois state’s attorney had the nerve to say it was “a good example of what the DNA unit was intended to do.” But the first exoneration for DNA occurred in 1989. He was kept in prison an additional 18 years when the evidence existed all along to free him!
His case is very much like all those others finally released. The average time spent in prison of those acquitted from the work of this project was 12 years. Sixty% had spent at least a third of their lives in prison. Yet none of the district attorneys, politicians and judges have gone to prison for stealing all these years of innocent life.
In this racist society, it’s not a surprise that 62% of those freed as innocent are black. And 88% of those freed were convicted of sexual assault, exactly the crime that this society has consistently falsely accused black men of since the days of slavery.
We are told no one can be convicted unless they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But the evidence used against 77% of those convicted was at least in part due to wrong eye-witness identification. And despite the wizardry of CSI on television, 65% were convicted due to fraudulent, unreliable or limited forensic science. But the science is no better than the system in which it is carried out. When state-employed scientists and technicians are so often willing to engage in fraud to convict the innocent, even so-called scientific evidence can’t be trusted.
A quarter of those convicted were in prison due to forced untrue confessions. A third of these were 18 or younger or were mentally handicapped. It isn’t known how many of these men confessed due to torture, but obviously all were put under a great deal of pressure to make them confess to something they didn’t do.
Further, 15% were convicted at least in part on the basis of paid “informers.” The courts continue to falsely convict people on the basis of manipulation by the police and jailers, who pay and offer rewards for what they often know is false information.
Some 2.2 million people languish in U.S. prisons and jails, most condemned because of poverty, lack of prospects and the absence of jobs. There are more people behind bars in the U.S. than in any other country. China, which has four times the U.S. population, imprisons 1.5 million, less than are imprisoned here. Russia has 870,000 in prison.
In the U.S., not only are people imprisoned for the crime of growing up poor and being shunted aside by the system, but an undetermined – and large – number didn’t even do the crime they were accused of.
Justice? Is that what they call it?