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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Retribution 2

This is the second post on dealing with the argument that Coy should be in prison because of his history with Jill Odom; the first was about pinpointing why someone might make the argument, so now let’s talk about why it’s wrong. I’m going to borrow here from “THE CHALLENGE OF CRIME IN A FREE SOCIETY.”

It was written back in the 1960s by the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. According to this report:

The system of criminal justice America uses to deal with those crimes it cannot prevent and those criminals it cannot deter is not a monolithic, or even a consistent, system. It was not designed or built in one piece at one time. Its philosophic core is that a person may be punished by the Government if, and only if, it has been proved by an impartial and deliberate process that he has violated a specific law.

And that’s about all that can be said on the subject; an individual may say “Because of an unrelated mistake, he should be punished.” The courts, however, cannot. They have to prove that a specific law has been broken, and then mete out a just punishment for that violation. 

If someone personally believes Coy is getting ‘what he deserves’, it’s their right to have that opinion. It is not, however, the right of the justice system to convict someone on flimsy evidence because they may have committed another, unrelated crime in the past. That’s not how it’s supposed to work and allowing it because you believe ‘he deserves it’ weakens the protections that are (supposedly) built into the system to protect all of us.

An example of this is how easy it seems to have been for Harris County to imprison innocent people accused of similar crimes. Over and over and over, you see their stories appear on this blog. Frequently, there was evidence in their favor that was overlooked or hidden; sometimes all it would have taken was a moment of honesty from the complainant, or competent testimony from a doctor to prevent their convictions.

Instead, they received long years in prison and a delayed pronouncement of innocence with a check, if they’re lucky. Some of these men were pure as the driven snow, while some had criminal histories that made it that much more satisfying to slam the prison bars shut; but none of them deserved what they got.

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