DISCLAIMER: TO AVOID ANY MISINTERPRETATION OF MY INTEREST IN THIS TOPIC PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING: A GUY I PRETTY WELL WAS CONVICTED OF RAPE AND SEX ABUSE AFTER GETTING CAUGHT HAVING SEX WITH HIS 16 YR OLD GIRLFRIEND …HE WAS 19 AT THE TIME …THEY HAD DATED FOR OVER 1 1/2 YEARS AND THE EVENT WAS 100% CONSENSUAL. HE WAS CONVICTED…SPENT 3-6 MOS IN JAIL WHERE HE WAS BEATEN UP ALMOST DAILY (FOR BEING A ‘RAPIST’) AND WHEN HE WAS RELEASED HE WAS REQUIRED TO REGISTER FOR LIFE AS A SEX OFFENDER WITH NO DIFFERENTIATION BETWEEN HIS QUALIFYING CONDUCT AND THAT OF A PREDATORY SERIAL RAPIST. HIS NAME AND PICTURE APPEARED ON SEX OFFENDER WEB SITES, HE WAS ONLY ALLOWED TO LIVE IN VERY RESTRICTED AREAS, HIS ABILITY TO GO TO COLLEGE, GET A GOOD JOB, BASICALLY HIS ENTIRE FUTURE WAS TAKEN AWAY FROM HIM. WHEN I HEARD ABOUT THIS AND LOOKED INTO IT I WAS APPALLED AND BECAME INVOLVED IN THE EFFORT TO ESTABLISH EXCEPTIONS FOR ‘ROMEO AND JULIET’ ROMANCES IN THE LAW. I HAVE PERSONALLY NEVER HAD SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH ANYONE OVER THE AGE OF 18 WHEN I WAS UNDER AGE AND MY INTEREST IN THIS ISSUE IS PREDICATED UPON NOTHING MORE THAN RIGHT AND WRONG!)
Our criminal justice system is broken! But that isn’t exactly news. We have all known for some time that serious problems exist. What has kept us from being collectively outraged and demanding immediate reform is because until it affects you, it’s a lot like the weather: “Everybody complains about it, and no one does anything”. We as individuals have no way to assess the magnitude of the problem until it touches us personally; through a friend, or family member, or, God forbid, we find ourselves firmly planted in its arbitrary and ruinous crosshairs ourselves. Unfortunately, by the time that happens it is generally too late. Here in the Oregon, like every other state, we no longer try cases…we negotiate convictions. And that is not how the system was designed to work.
We have all heard the stories that are symptomatic of this break down:
• Like the one where the High School football player flashes a BA (bare ass) from the team bus as it rolls out of the parking lot and is now a registered sex offender; required to register for life, forever stamped as one of societies biggest, most unwelcome, pariahs. His life ruined.
• Or the innocent man wrongly charged with a crime who now finds himself willing to accept a plea bargain and agreeing to serve a prison term before availing himself to a trial by a jury of his peers, the numerous mandatory minimum sentences widely used and abused by prosecutors, and our current criminal justice system.
• The list goes on and on!
That is not to say that the current system’s all inclusive ‘dragnet” , doesn’t take bad guys off the streets too…it does. The credibility flaws in our system today are primarily due to the fact that in doing so it also takes a wholly unacceptable number of good guys off the streets in the process. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Edward D. White said it best when he quoted a Roman official who wrote that “it was better to let the crime of a guilty person go unpunished than to condemn the innocent.” Nevertheless, we know that a fallible system like ours is doomed to generate false acquittals as well as false convictions. Given the volume of crime and the pressure to solve cases, too often police officers take the easy way out. Once they come to suspect someone as the culprit, and this often occurs early within the investigation and is based on rather flimsy circumstantial information, then the investigation blindly focuses in on that adopted “target.” Crucial pieces of evidence are overlooked and disregarded. . . . Before too long, momentum has gathered, and the “project” now is to put it on the suspect. Any information that points to the suspect, no matter how spuriously secured, is somehow obtained; and anything that points away from him is ridiculed and twisted into nothingness. In short, they get wedded to their theory and things inconsistent with their theory are ignored and their tunnel vision means your terrible case…that has hung over your head for usually about 1 year, and cost you $1,000’s and $1,000’s of dollars (which is money you will never see again!) will go to trial and you will get the chance to see what 12 people too stupid to get out of jury duty think …Scary Stuff!