Wednesday, September 12, 2012
So, in the Grand Scheme of Things, what does it matter if a man gets sent to prison for a false charge, if he may 'deserve' prison time for something else? How is that going to affect all of the rest of us perfect angels, who have no episodes of stupidity in our past and certainly never, ever violated any of the 50 quadrillion laws in this country?
In my opinion, it comes down to the idea of due process.
Per Wikipedia: The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution each contain a Due Process Clause. The Supreme Court of the United States interprets the Clauses as providing four protections: procedural due process (in civil and criminal proceedings), substantive due process, a prohibition against vague laws, and as the vehicle for the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.
Procedural Due Process is, if I understand it correctly, the right to a trial; the right to confront your accuser, and the right to a fair hearing. You, I and everyone else are constitutionally guaranteed due process in each case, but there was no legal process at all in the case involving Jill Odom.
An individual is may believe it's karma, or poetic justice, or whatever, but he'd be foolish to deny Coy a fair hearing based on that; Coy vs. Texas was, I believe, weak and unproven. By turning a blind eye to the misbehavior of the Justice System in Case A, even if it's because you think Coy should have been imprisoned for Case B, you're giving the State the right and power to use the same methods in any other case you choose.
Obviously this didn't start with Coy vs. Texas; Harris County had been slapping cases together out of nothing for years before, and continued through Rosenthal's term as DA because people were afraid to stand against it. Fear can make us blind; fear can make us hand over our most precious rights in the name of 'protecting the children.' It can make us view others as less than human.
It's okay to be afraid; it's not okay to let that fear turn you against justice, against reason, and to allow it to steal life from the innocent. I believe people that make the argument we've been discussing are afraid, but you can help them recognize their fear and deal with it by calmly and intelligently explaining the case for a new trial.