Posted: March 22, 2013 in Ethics and Morality, News and politics, Social Justice

The item that caught my eye this morning was about a man who was freed after 20 years in jail. The link: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/51281108. I also posted some of my thoughts with the other link to the story on facebook.

It seems the D. A.’s office had instituted a “conviction integrity unit” to look into convictions that look wrong after new evidence is discovered. The story (as reported and its link posted on my facebook page) is pretty interesting. In my view it shows a challenge to a prosecutor’s office to be diligent in deciding when a case should go to trial. The evidence was apparently not available to the prosecutor’s office when the case was sent to trial, according to reports. It appears the witness that picked Ranta out in a line-up said he did not recognize Ranta but selected him after a detective told him to “pick the guy with the big nose.” Harrumph!

What I find equally abhorrent is how “A jail house snitch and his girlfriend, both of whom fingered Ranta as the shooter, also admitted to prosecutors that they made up their story to secure a favorable plea deal.” This kind of plea bargaining might save time and money but it surely seems to go against the interests of justice. With only what I read in news accounts of a trial I am usually skeptical of cases that hinge on a witness who testifies to get a better deal in their case. I expect corroborating evidence would be necessary for a good case. One might ask if the corroborating evidence is strong, then why use the “snitch”. All that is for a jury to decide, I guess.

“12 Angry Men” is another great study in jurisprudence. My feeling is “art imitates life”; and sometimes the reverse. That’s why the liberal arts part of my college days has become more important ,in my retirement years, than what I learned more directly useful to get (and keep) a job.

The prosecutor in the news story should be lauded for instituting the “conviction integrity unit” at the risk of losing his job. He is up for reelection. He belongs in Kennedy’s book “Profiles in Courage” or Kennedy’s daughter’s sequel “Profiles in Courage for Our Times”.

Oops! I just read certain cogent parts of the Wikipedia article about the book and, as the woman TV reporter in “Hero” (played by Gena Davis) stated with such great articulation in the acceptance speech for the “silver Microphone” award, there is more to the story than what we read. I will have to stop now before this extends into a major digression.


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