Whenever it is proven that an innocent person was wrongfully convicted, which occurs way more frequently than any of us would like to admit, we are quick to pin the blame on some evil authority figure. According to Mark Godsey, a former prosecutor now heading the Ohio Innocence Project, there is no such sinister antagonist, only humans behaving as humans.
In his new book Blind Injustice, Godsey not only explains how and wrongful convictions occur, but also provides some relatively simple, inexpensive ways to greatly reduce these tragic cases. Because he served many years as a prosecutor in New York, Godsey has been able to empathize with the courts while to also sympathize with the victims of wrongful imprisonment.
Most people upon hearing about someone like Ricky Jackson, who served nearly forty years in a prison in Ohio for a crime he did not commit, feel regret for a few seconds without ever thinking such a travesty could someday affect them, too. However, over two thousands convictions have been overturned by evidence such as DNA testing since 1989.
The reasons for so many tragic miscarriages of justice are primarily psychological and political, according to the book. Prosecutors, along with judges and juries for that matter, are human beings and thus prone to error.
Among such errors, Godsey contends, are blond denial, blind bias, and blind memory, all which are often the only so-called evidence a prosecutor uses in his effort to get a conviction against the accused. The book offers various tests, each of which I failed, to point out just how unreliable all three of those concepts can be when determining truth.
Political factors also contribute to many of the false imprisonments, especially since many judges and prosecutors are elected positions. The public quite naturally wants to feel safe, so candidates who have reputations or agendas that more than not get the highest vote totals.
Thus, the more convictions a prosecutor can amass, the better his chances to retain his position. Instead of asking how many innocent people he might have caused to be incarcerated, society asks only about the number whether they were guilty or not.
Godsey, because of his long service as a prosecutor in New York, understands these factors. There is tremendous pressure on legal authorities to bring justice as quickly as possible to a less than patient public. Perhaps that is why everyone, not just law students and family members of victims of injustice, should read Blind Injustice.
Godsey models patience in both his content and his writing style throughout this book. The innocent victims he and various state Innocence Projects have freed of course have no choice but to be patient, since they spend years behind bars.
On the other hand, prosecutors must be more patient themselves, and that also directly leads to the public. We must fight off the human desire for swift justice in favor of protection for the innocent, relying on science rather than humans to determine guilt.