Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mistake or Mischief?

The criminal justice system, like all other human endeavors, makes mistakes. Sometimes, the wrong people go to prison (and vice versa). But when it comes to wrongful convictions, how many can you chalk up to mistake and how many are the result of something more sinister. Professor Richard Moran, who writes in today's New York Times, analyzed the 124 exonerations of death row inmates from 1973 to 2007 and uncovered a disturbing trend:

80, or about two-thirds, of their so-called wrongful convictions resulted not from good-faith mistakes or errors but from intentional, willful, malicious prosecutions by criminal justice personnel.
Moran argues that the term "wrongful conviction" is too squishy and suggests mistake, rather than malfeasance. He may be right, but I'm not sure that a switch to "unlawful conviction" (his suggestion) will do much good.

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