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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

If the jury can get it wrong, why can the prosecution not be wrong?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (22108 points ) July 6th, 2011

When a verdict comes down like that in the Casey Anthony trial people want to think the jury got it wrong, they don’t want to change gears and believe what they thought was wrong, but that the suspect is still guilty but got off. Many people lose dozens of years, some on death row, until evidence, sometime suppressed by the prosecution, or DNA proves the convicted could not have done it. Even with that proof, why are people so slow to say the prosecution messed up and stole many years of freedom from an innocent person while the real criminal got away? It always comes back to the person was still actually guilty but got lucky, and were sprung on a technicality. Is it so hard to say the prosecution made a mistake?

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18 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

Depending upon the case, before it went to trial, a grand jury was presented the evidence and arguments, and felt there was enough there to merit a jury trial.

roundsquare's avatar

People don’t like to admit they were wrong. Its as simple as that.

ratboy's avatar

This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.

Justice Antonin Scalia

The view that the judicial branch is just an impediment to justice seems to be gaining traction.

ratboy's avatar

@worriedguy: if that’s sufficient to determine guilt, why bother with the trial? The grand jury is there only to ensure that the prosecutor has some plausible reason to go to trial.

roundsquare's avatar

I’m with @ratboy on the grand jury thing. A grand jury determination means something of course, but courts have often and vehemently held that it is not a statement of guilt.

poisonedantidote's avatar

If this Casey goes to jail, it does not affect you, you have no stake in that persons life and don’t care about them, and because of what you suspect, the more primitive side of your mind would have that person locked up just in case, because killers on the loose does affect you.

roundsquare's avatar

@ratboy Re: The Scalia quote. Context is critical. In this case, Scalia was dissenting, that is to say, he was in the minority. Indeed, if he is correct about the history, it seems as if the court is moving in the right direction (since that case would have been the first time the court is doing the right thing).

LuckyGuy's avatar

@ratboy The grand jury outcome does not mean there is enough to convict. It means there is a strong case, and it merits going to trial.

Let’s look at the facts:
The child is dead.
The mother waited 1–2 mnths before reporting her missing
During the intervening months the mother fabricated many diferent sotries about the child’s whereabouts.
Duct tape over mouth with heart
Blah blah blah.

Maybe she should have been tried for bad parenting. There was a very strong case for that.
Or maybe it was a case of Retroactive abortion?

zenvelo's avatar

The premise of your question is wrong. Juries can’t get it wrong: they weigh the evidence and agree on whether the defendant was proved guilty.

There are many recorded cases of malicious prosecution and people who have been put on death row by prosecutors that ignored exculpatory evidence. That’s why one of the former governors of Illinois commuted the death penalty for everyone on death row, and why the Innocence Project has worked to free a number of people who have been convicted.

Hibernate's avatar

People will always make mistakes or else we’d be robots not humans .

SuperMouse's avatar

Two things came to mind when I read this question. First, The Innocence Project. According to their mission statement “The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent further injustice.” The folks who run this organization have forced us to look at the fallibility of guilty verdicts. The second is The Child Cases report done by a NPR/Pro-Publica highlighting the issues with child killings in the United States and investigating several cases of wrongful conviction of parents in cases such as these.

marinelife's avatar

The weight of the system is all rolling one way. It is hard for them to admit, especially wrongdoing.

Mariah's avatar

In this particular case, neither guilt nor innocence was proven, so people are sticking with their gut feelings. Fortunately we’re innocent until proven guilty here.

throssog's avatar

Prosecutors can and often are wrong. However, they have immunity from suit and can only be (if elected) turned out of office, or (if appointed as are Federal AUSA’s) admonished, censured or discharged for reason.
Grand Juries are only presented with the prosecutions evidence and theory of prosecution. Nothing else is submitted to them. There is a saying: “You can indict a ham sandwich for capital murder”, disgustingly enough it seems true.

ratboy's avatar

@worriedguy
“Let’s look at the facts”
No, let’s not. That was the jury’s job. Presumably that’s what they did.

ratboy's avatar

@roundsquare, you’re correct. Still, I find it appalling that a supreme court justice could hold such an opinion today.

roundsquare's avatar

@worriedguy @ratboy Am I confused? I think you two actually agree that a grand jury determination is not enough to convict. What are you arguing about?

@ratboy I see why you say that. I think he’s worries about having a lot of people come back and try to have their judgments overturned. He’s right that we don’t want a bunch of useless cases back into the system and we have to accept that some innocent people will be found guilty. I have a feeling that Scalia, being the firebrand he is, is using language that he doesn’t literally agree with.

tranquilsea's avatar

When a child dies most of us are justifiably horrified. We want to blame someone. I think we do this because we don’t want to think, even for one second, that something bad could happen to our children. Something like falling from a highchair and dying. Or drowning in a pool.

Most people think they have a good idea of how they would react in a traumatic situation. If someone’s actions don’t line up with this belief then their innocence is brought into question. The real deal is that until you’ve had to deal with something as traumatic as finding your child dead you cannot say, really, how you’d react. Most people, thankfully, would call 911. Some people cannot think that straight.

Here’s a case of a highly respected child pathologist here in Canada who, on more than 15 occasions, made false and misleading statements about a child fatality that eventually put innocent family members in jail….for years.

I was actually surprised in this case that the jury acquitted her. I thought for sure they would hang her dry based on the tragedy of the case. This case has made me feel a little better about jury trials.

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