Hispanic Identity Confusion and Criminal Justice

Do-gooders at Columbia Law School are patting themselves on the back for concluding that Texas executed an innocent man.

De Luna/Hernandez

Did These Columbia Law Students and Their Professor Prove That Texas Executed An Innocent Man? , By Christopher Danzig, Above The Law, May 16, 2012

(Of course, unlike actual lawyers in the courtroom, they don`t have to follow rules of evidence and deal with erratic juries — they can simply self-declare a finding of guilty or not guilty, and that`s that.)

The man wrongly executed, according to the law enforcement professionals at Columbia Law School: Carlos DeLuna

The actual killer, according to the same crew: Carlos Hernandez

All of which might in fact be true, and I`ll assume for this blog post it is, though neither prosecution nor defense is swayed (their bias is obvious): [Report questioning execution doesn`t sway lawyers, AP, , May 16, 2012]

The Columbia kids and their professor throw this up as an example of: America`s reckless and redneck justice system (especially those racist Texans), the illegitimacy of the death penalty, and the oppression of minorities.

I don`t think it`s all that.

I think it`s an example of Hispanic Identity Confusion, an increasingly vexing issue for the legal system. The two men resembled each other so closely, they were referred to as twins. This happens in America: a jail has the wrong “Carlos Sanchez”, officers can`t ID a Hispanic male because he`s manipulating the hyphenated last name phenomenon, bought and sold identities confuse everyone, and so on.

Note: the lead detective and other law enforcement involved in this case were themselves Hispanic.

So, would this have happened in a place where everyone was Hispanic, including the attorneys, jury and judges? Hey, maybe not — it`s pretty well documented that in-group identifications are more accurate than out-group identifications, because members of the in-group are more sensitive to little distinguishing details (i.e., “all black guys/white guys/etc. look alike to me.”)[ Cross-Racial Identification, Personal  and Social  Psychology Bulletin, March 1989]

The sole identifying witness, Kevan Baker, sounds like a white man to me.

In that sense, the multiracial society does work an unfairness to everyone, regardless of race. More racially homogenous societies have clearer vision when it comes to identifying individuals, so their justice systems are almost certainly more accurate. They also have more unified behavior and value systems, so one group (whites) isn`t stuck imposing its standards on another (Hispanic, black). Why should whites be left to feel guilty over messes they didn`t create?

Instead of attacking our supposedly incompetent, “racist” justice system, why not discuss this issue?