Presumed Guilty

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

 

While enjoying the Christmas season in the comfort of your home, take a minute to say a prayer for the wrongfully convicted.

American prisons are full of wrongfully convicted persons. Many were coerced into admitting to crimes they did not commit by prosecutors’ threats to pile on more charges. Others were convicted by false testimony from criminals bribed by prosecutors, who exchanged dropped charges or reduced sentences in exchange for false testimony against defendants.

Not all the wrongfully convicted are poor. Some are wealthy and prominent people targeted by corrupt prosecutors seeking a celebrity case in order to boost their careers.

Until it happens to them or to a member of their family, Americans are clueless to the corruption in the criminal justice (sic) system.
Most prosecutors are focused on their conviction rates, and judges are focused on clearing their court dockets. Defendants are processed accordingly, not in terms of guilt or innocence.

“Law and order conservatives” wrongly believe that the justice (sic) system is run by liberal judges who turn the criminals loose. In actual fact, the system is so loaded against a defendant that very few people, including the totally innocent, dare to risk a trial.

Almost all (95-97%) felony indictments are settled by a coerced plea. By withholding exculpatory evidence, suborning perjury, fabricating evidence, and lying to jurors, prosecutors have made the risks of a trial too great even for the innocent. Consequently, the prosecutors’ cases and police evidence are almost never tested in court. Defendants are simply intimidated into self-incrimination rather than risk the terrors of trial.

According to Yale University law professor John Langbein, “The parallels between the modern American plea bargaining system and the ancient system of judicial torture are many and chilling.” Just as the person on the rack admitted to guilt in order to stop the pain, the present day defendant succumbs to psychological torture and cops a plea, whether he is innocent or guilty, in order to avoid ever more charges.

Michael Tonry, director of Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology, reports that the US has the highest percentage of its population in prison than any country on earth, including dictatorships, tyrannies, and China. The US incarceration rate is up to 12 times higher than that of European countries.

Unless you believe Americans are 12 times more criminally inclined than Europeans, why is one of every 80 Americans (not counting children and the elderly) locked away from family, friends, career, and life? Part of the answer is the private prison industry, which requires inmates to fuel the profits of investors. Another part of the answer is career-driven prosecutors who want convictions at all costs. Yet another is the failure of judges to rein-in prosecutorial abuses. Another part of the answer is the hostility of Americans to defendants and indifference to their innocence or guilt.

The US invasion of Iraq has brought the breakdown in American moral fiber to the fore. The horrific tortures and abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, the public justifications of torture by the president and vice president of the United States, and the CIA kidnappings and torture of detainees in secret prisons put the American “liberators” in the same camp as Saddam Hussein. It is ironic that mistreatment of Iraqis is one of the justifications that Bush uses for overthrowing Saddam.

In his book, “Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws,” Judge Andrew P. Napolitano reports on cases of torture, psychological abuse and frame-ups that he discovered as presiding judge.

I have reported a number of wrongful convictions. Anytime a new offense is created, the word goes out to “produce convictions.” Over a decade ago William R. Strong, Jr., was made a victim of Virginia’s new wife rape law. Strong discovered his wife in an affair with her boyfriend and was about to serve her with divorce papers. She found out and struck first, accusing him of rape. Mr. Strong has been trying to get a DNA test for many years, confident that the semen in the perk test is that of the lover of his unfaithful wife, but Virginia’s criminal justice (sic) system is unresponsive.

Another innocent victim of Virginia justice (sic) is Chris Gaynor. Gaynor took his skateboard team to a competition. When one of the kids tried to buy drugs, Gaynor threatened to tell his parents. To preempt Gaynor, the kid accused him of sexual abuse. There was no evidence against Gaynor, and the entire team knew the real story.
However, Gaynor was framed by a corrupt prosecutor, reportedly a man-hating lesbian, with the connivance of a corrupt judge, who intimidated Gaynor’s young witnesses by jailing one of them without cause. Gaynor’s innocence was of less importance to the criminal justice (sic) system than a desire to increase convictions for child sex abuse.

In America, defendants are no longer innocent until they are proven guilty. They are guilty the minute they are charged, and the system works to process the guilty, not to determine innocence or guilt.

Americans in their ignorance and gullibility think that only the guilty would enter a guilty plea. This is the uninformed opinion of the naive who have never experienced the terror and psychological torture of the US criminal justice (sic) system.

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS has held a number of academic appointments and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. His graduate economics education was at the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford University. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com

 

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is How America Was Lost.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 30, 2015
Bill Blunden
The NSA’s 9/11 Cover-Up: General Hayden Told a Lie, and It’s a Whopper
Richard Ward
Sandra Bland, Rebel
Jeffrey St. Clair
How One Safari Nut, the CIA and Neoliberal Environmentalists Plotted to Destroy Mozambique
Martha Rosenberg
Tracking the Lion Killers Back to the Old Oval Office
Binoy Kampmark
Dead Again: the Latest Demise of Mullah Omar
Kathy Kelly – Buddy Bell
No Warlords Need Apply: a Call for Credible Peacemaking in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
Darker Horizons Ahead: Rethinking the War on ‘IS’
Stephen Lendman
The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence
John Grant
The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015
Karl Grossman
The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press
Cesar Chelala
Cultural Treasures Are Also Victims of War
Jeff Taylor
Iowa Conference on Presidential Politics
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz