"It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubborness of the inorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed." - Albert Einstein

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I aspire to a stubbornly incorrigible nonconformity. The degree to which I have achieved my aspiration I leave in the capable hands of those whose wisdom and humilty exceed my own.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Blackstone Ratio and Our Commitment to Justice

"Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer,"
English jurist William Blackstone. The ratio 10:1 has become known as the "Blackstone ratio" and it is a foundational teaching in law school. Beyond the confines of law school, the Blackstone Ratio is commonly understood and accepted by society at large as well.
We also know that in our system of government we are assured that persons convicted of a crime are entitled to the presumption of innoncence. In trials for serious crimes the prosecution bears the heavy burden of establishing proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
And yet ....
O. J. was never convicted and yet DNA has established the innocence of of yet one more man who was in prison for 25 years. He had been convicted of rape, robbery, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated battery. DNA unequivocally established his innocence.
Lets admit it and stop pretending, in this country there is one system of justice for the rich and famous and another for the poor and obscure. And lets stop pretending that we have a lofty and ethical commitment to truth and justice. The list of persons falsely imprisoned and later exonerataed by the use of DNA is growing. It is now at over 200. If our commitment to truth and justice is in fact so great and noble, we would hardly resist paying any price to reach that burden of beyond a reasonable doubt. Surely the cost and inconvenience of a DNA test would be no obstacle. And yet... it took 25 years in a prison cell for this latest man.

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