Ronald Cotton spent 11 years in
prison because Jennifer Thompson provided eye
witness testimony that he was the person who raped
her. On March 9, National Public Radio
revisited the story.
It turned out that Thompson was
completely wrong, DNA evidence indicated that
it was not Cotton but another man who had bragged
about the rape.
Thompson asked Cotton for
forgiveness, and he gave it. The two became
friends and have collaborated on a book. On
NPR Thompson said that eye witness testimony is
incorrect 70 percent of the time.
I am familiar with
psychological studies that conclude that eye witness
accounts are wrong half of the time. That is
enough to discredit eye witness testimony as
evidence; yet, police and juries always bank on it.
Rape victims tend to be angry,
and they want someone to pay. When shown mug
shots or a lineup, they tend to pick someone,
naively believing that if it is the wrong person the
police investigation will clear the person.
Witnesses to crimes who are not
themselves victims want to be helpful to the police.
Consequently, they also tend to deliver up the
innocent to justice.
And then there is the purchased
"witness" testimony that prosecutors pay for with money and dropped
charges in order to close a case. A favorite
trick is to put a
in the cell with a defendant. The snitch then
comes forward and reports that the defendant
Law and order conservatives
think that the only miscarriages of justice are
effected by liberal judges and liberal parole boards
who can`t wait to release dangerous criminals to
prey on the public.
The absurd idea that the
justice system doesn`t make mistakes about those it
convicts, except when they are let off by liberals,
has made it impossible for innocent people
wrongfully convicted to be paroled.
To be paroled, a person must
admit to his crime and go through rehabilitation. Of
course, only the guilty admit their crimes, and so
only the guilty qualify for parole. Innocent
people tend to maintain their innocence.
A case in point is that of
William R. Strong, who has
been locked away for a dozen years or more for
According to people familiar
with the case, Strong`s wife had a boyfriend and
wanted rid of her husband. She accused him of
rape. This was prior to DNA testing, but the
perk kit still exists.
Strong comes from a patriotic
military family. His father was a colonel and
Strong served as a lieutenant and has two college
degrees. The family trusted America and the
police and the justice (sic) system. When
advised that Strong would be out in a year if he
agreed to a plea bargain, the family, beset with
troubles, pressured Strong to accept the deal.
Only it was a double cross.
The judge, seeking women`s support, gave Strong 60
That should be enough to wreck
marriage in America, or for that matter,
heterosexual sex unless there is a signed contract
prior to each act.
It seems obvious that Strong
was set up, double crossed, and is a threat to no
one. Many have recommended his parole.
But on February 20 of this year the Virginia Parole
Board turned Strong down for the 11th time.
The American criminal justice
(sic) system is incapable of admitting that it makes
mistakes. The criminology bureaucrats claim
that those inmates who proclaim their innocence are
in denial and, thus, cannot be rehabilitated and,
therefore, remain dangerous. In truth, it is
the bureaucrats who are in denial and constitute a
danger to justice.
Strong`s insistence on his
innocence is doubly problematic for him.
Although pressured, he agreed to a plea, and it is
very difficult to overturn plea convictions.
Strong maintains that the DNA in the perp kit is
that of the boyfriend, but his plea allows the state
to consider the matter closed.
The criminal justice (sic)
system has nothing to do with justice. It is a
massive producer of injustice. The agenda is
to clear court dockets and to produce high
These high rates are achieved
through coerced plea bargains.
Strong still believes in
America and that justice will win out. I hope
he is right.
Law and order conservatives
think of the police in god-like terms as
Conservatives could gain more
perspective if they watch some of the videos on
YouTube of gratuitous police violence, such as
this one of a police officer delivering a brutal
beating to a 15-year old girl.
A Google search for YouTube
videos of police violence lists 485,000 entries, and
these are just the acts captured on camera.
How many cops are psychopaths who constitute a
greater danger to the public than do criminals?
SWAT teams are notorious for breaking down doors at
the wrong address and murdering innocent citizens.
Cops are also notorious for
framing people as it is easier than doing serious
investigation of crimes and collecting evidence.
Even the guilty are often framed as that is easier
than convicting them on the evidence.
Libertarian free market types
believe that the private sector can do everything
better than the public sector. This ideology
causes libertarians to be blind to the dangerous
incentives created by the privatization of prisons.
On February 12, CBS News
reported that two Pennsylvania judges have been
charged with sending kids to privately operated
detention centers in exchange for $2.6 million in
State operated prisons don`t
want more inmates. The more inmates the more
the work and the more the risk that a judge will
intervene because of overcrowding.
In contrast, private jails make
more money the more inmates they have.
Just think of all the kids
whose lives have been ruined by the greedy judges
and private prison operators. The judges have
been sentenced to seven years on reduced charge plea
But what about the private
prison operators who paid the bribes to have the
kids sentenced? Shouldn`t they be put away for
The US has the highest
incarceration rate and the biggest prison population
of any country in the world. With 5 percent of
the world`s population, the US has 25 percent of the
world`s prison inmates. Recent research by the
Pew Center concludes that one in every 31 Americans
is in prison or jail or on probation or parole.
So much in America needs to be
revamped–the economy, foreign policy, health care,
and the criminal justice (sic) system. Does a
country broken in so many ways have a future?
Paul Craig Roberts [email
him] was Assistant
Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan`s
first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall
Street Journal. He has held numerous academic
appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair,
Center for Strategic and International Studies,
Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded
the Legion of Honor by French President Francois
Mitterrand. He is the author of
Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider`s Account of
Policymaking in Washington;
and the Soviet Economy and
Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy,
and is the co-author
with Lawrence M. Stratton of
The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and
Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name
of Justice. Click
here for Peter
Brimelow`s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts
about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.