There is no such thing as “too tough on crime.” That is the attitude of some people, certainly in Oklahoma, and it is in that climate of “no such thing as too much” that false evidence flourishes, like the false evidence that we are now able to prove is false by DNA testing. Prosecutions aimed at “win-at-any-cost” follow this “no such thing as too much”, nothing is too tough on crime” replaces a system designed with restraints. The power of the law is no longer a balance of fairness but simply a tool to get bad guys – no matter what, no matter how.
Today, there are many citizens in Oklahoma who think the legal system is too soft on criminals. By “criminals”, these people think of anyone accused of a crime. Legal technicalities and long delays have frustrated these citizens. These citizens just know that everyone accused of a crime is pretty much guilty. Certainly, many in law enforcement take this attitude.
Many in law enforcement believe that they, and they alone, are the ones who know who is guilty of crime and what to do about it. That is the climate that produced the perjury and corruption of the legal justice system in the Joyce Gilcrest string of false convictions.
Don’t Attorneys Just Try to Get Guilty People Off?
Why should we have criminal defense lawyers involved at all? Don’t they just gum up the works? Don’t they just try to trick honest witnesses? Don’t they just stand in the way of an efficient process of capturing and convicting the guilty? Isn’t it up to the police to screen out the suspects who are not the guilty ones? How can we trust defense lawyers who question the guilt of every client, who never admit anyone charged is ever guilty? Especially when we know that at least most of those accused or a crime are, indeed, guilty, despite what their criminal defense lawyers claim?
Don’t the Police and Prosecutors Have Conclusive Evidence of Guilt before Bringing Charges?
Police make their arrests based upon the standard of “probable cause” of guilt. Prosecuting attorneys file criminal charges in court also based on “probable cause”, although such filing is discretionary and prosecuting attorneys may consider other criteria, and should, even considering the justice of such a filing. But prosecuting attorneys may file criminal charges while in possession of evidence that rises only to the standard of “probable cause”. No one and no authority in the legal system has the power to make prosecuting attorneys file, or prohibit them from filing, criminal charges. The District Attorney or Attorney General alone has discretion to make that decision.
Indeed, if only the prosecution could police itself, those accused of crimes would not need their own lawyers. For much of the time and in many places, the prosecution does fairly restrain itself without a great deal of prodding from defense lawyers. But where and when is that done? Would there be such self-restraint applied consistently in every case? How long would that restraint continue without the near presence of the defense bar of attorneys who will challenge any false testimony, any false evidence, any stretching of the truth, any omission or manipulation of the facts?
Third World countries are perfectly satisfied with systems far less complicated than ours, systems that run much more smoothly in giving the accused a good, quick trial before getting to the inevitable hanging.
If all police detectives were as conscientious as those on television, then maybe we should give the police witnesses the benefit of the doubt. If the police detectives in real life actually were always looking for the “truly guilty” person, rather than taking the first short cut to wrap up an investigation and then ignoring loose ends, stretching the truth to cover themselves and make the accused look worse, then those accused in Oklahoma would enjoy a much more thorough screening process. If such were the case in Oklahoma, the police witnesses who testified before our juries would be entitled to much more deference than is the case now.
Real Life is NOT Necessarily Like TV
Too bad some jurors believe the police witnesses they see in trials in Oklahoma are the high-principled individuals whom they enjoy watching on television. Too bad so many jurors in Oklahoma are so willing to extend unquestioning credence to police witnesses when, in fact, they should be much more skeptical. — as the skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer knows too well…. That many innocent people ARE falsely accused.
And I, for one, feel it’s my job to fight for the rights of my accused clients, instead of letting law enforcement and prosecutors walk all over them —which many police officers and prosecutors want to do in order to get the case over fast and further their careers. After all, they’re not ALL perfect people, just because they’re in a position of authority.
That’s why defense lawyers are a necessary part of the checks and balances of our American system —and its important for every citizen to know you have the right to seek a conscientious, talented and experienced criminal defense attorney, if you happen to find yourself in such a situation. And if you do —I invite you to go to my website at http://www.edmondgeary.com for important information on the kinds of questions to ask before hiring a lawyer.