26 January 2006

Verdict: Criminal Justice System Broken

The Mercury News in Santa Clara County, California ("the heart of Silicon Valley" as promoters like to proclaim), has very little good to say about all of the players in the local criminal justice system (with the possible exception of private defense attorneys), despite the fact that it isn't atypical of the national norm. What is rotten in Santa Clara county, based on the 700 cases audited?

In one in three of the cases reviewed, the criminal trial had been marred by questionable conduct that worked against the defendant. In a small number of egregiously flawed trials, people were wrongly convicted. . . .
• In nearly 100 cases, prosecutors engaged in questionable conduct, including withholding evidence, defying a judge's orders or misleading juries. . . .
• In 100 cases, defense attorneys failed their clients by neglecting to do even the most basic independent investigation or to raise objections to questionable prosecution tactics. . . .
• In more than 150 cases, judges failed to oversee trials impartially and repeatedly failed to properly instruct juries. . . .
• In more than 100 cases, the 6th District Court of Appeal upheld verdicts even while acknowledging trial errors, deeming them ``harmless.''. . . . The 6th District Court, which upholds 97 percent of all convictions, also publishes only 2 percent of its rulings -- the lowest percentage in the state -- which means its work is relatively hidden.


One of the most interesting recommendations is the newspaper's call for establishing "regular, proactive spot checks of criminal cases to look for problems and for patterns of flawed performance. They should establish better training for lawyers and judges, and they should be more aggressive in disciplining professionals who fail to meet standards."

1 comment:

THE SCRIBE said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.