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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Backward Reasoning

From Wikipedia:

Backward chaining (or backward reasoning) is an inference method that can be described (in lay terms) as working backward from the goal(s).

Inference is the act or process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true.

Backwards reasoning is a piss-poor way to conduct a criminal trial. You’re supposed to start at the beginning, with a man who is assumed to be innocent, and then present evidence against him piece by piece until no reasonable person could doubt that he is guilty.

Instead the prosecution appears to have begun with the assumption that Coy was guilty, and then cherry-picked bits of fact to support this. You might be thinking “Isn’t that the prosecutor’s job? To convict people?” No. The prosecutors job is, in the words of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure: …not to convict, but to see that justice is done.

That’s the DA’s responsibility; to see that justice is done. But how can that be achieved in a trial in which the conviction appears to be a foregone conclusion? Some examples of backward reasoning in Coy Vs. Texas include…

Coy was accused, therefore he is guilty.

Intellectually we know that an accusation is not proof of guilt, but in cases that involve possible harm to a child it seems that’s all it takes to convince people. Let’s say you’re called in to serve as a juror in Coy’s trial. You know that there’s been a police investigation. You know there’s been a decision by the DA’s office to proceed with the case. You know that there’s been a grand jury hearing to determine the validity of the charges. If you trust the judgment of all these institutions, how can you not come into the courtroom with the assumption that something must have happened? After all, you wouldn’t be there if the state didn’t believe there was a good reason; and let’s face it, most people will take the word of Texas over that of a rapper with authority issues and a flair for obscenity any day.

If he wasn’t guilty of something, he wouldn’t have to defend himself; therefore if he has to defend himself, he must be guilty of something.

The girl has symptoms, therefore he is guilty.

The prosecutors took a pre-existing condition, a little girl’s illness, and used it as ‘proof’ of abuse.

From the bits of transcript we have seen, it appears that they concealed (with the court’s approval) the reasons why the little girl had been prescribed Elavil, a serious medication that as of 2007, had not even been studied in children younger than twelve. Instead they presented her as a child who just recently started experiencing symptoms that could, possibly, be the result of abuse. How did concealing the root cause of her disorder promote the interests of justice? It didn’t, it just made it easier for the prosecution to obtain a conviction.

The therapist that treated her did not seem to have even read the medical history before testifying that she was sure that the girl had been abused, and there just wasn’t any possibility that she hadn’t been. If she had known that this little girl had been complaining of these symptoms months before the accusation, would she have allowed her expertise to be used as proof?

In SPM’s appeal, it is noted that this girl was repeatedly called ‘the victim’ in the courtroom, in front of the jury, even though, in theory, it had not yet been proven that a crime had been committed. How did that advance the cause of justice?

Coy was convicted, therefore he is guilty.

We know from the cases of Timothy Cole, Michael Morton, Anthony Graves, Dale Duke, Ricardo Rachell (and on, and on, and on), that just because a criminal conviction is handed down, doesn’t mean it’s correct; unfortunately these men spent years in prison while TDCJ bowed down before the altar of ‘The Finality of Conviction’…The arrogant assumption that the state’s reputation as an unstoppable juggernaut of righteous punishment is worth more than one innocent person’s freedom.

1 comment:

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