Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Barry Scheck & The Innocence Project.

The equivalent of pub crawling for me is to go out and hunt up used books wherever I can. That may be at bookstores, antique shops, garage sales or thrift stores. I buy to resell and I buy to read. Yesterday, I stopped in a thrift shop in Amsterdam and picked up three books for a quarter. (I'd like to see Barnes & Noble or Borders beat those prices).

One of the books was Actual Innocence by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld & Jim Dwyer. If you remember, Barry Scheck was the DNA expert for the defense in the O. J. Simpson trial. I couldn’t stand Scheck back then. I thought he was helping a guilty man go free, and I still believe that’s true.

But I have a new found respect for Scheck, and for defense attorneys in general. I stayed up and read more than half this book last night. For those of you who think that innocent people are never found guilty, you ought to read this book. There are many other good books on the subject as well. If that doesn’t convince you, take a look at Sheck’s Innocence Project, which has helped free 180 people by doing DNA tests on the evidence that was used to convict these people.

Scheck’s book, Actual Innocence, shows how snitches, false and forced confessions, incompetent defense attorneys, junk science, misconduct on the part of cops and prosecutors, race, misidentification by eye witnesses, and poorly conducted lab tests have lead to the imprisonment of innocent people.

I’ve heard many people say, so what. It’s only a small percentage of the population that gets imprisoned falsely.

But would they say that, if they were one of that group?

Scheck's book also calls for various reforms that would practically eliminate false convictions. It also deals with the problems of the convict who has been set free because he is innocent. He has as difficult a time re-adjusting to life as the ex-con, but often does not qualify for the programs set up for ex-cons. When a convicted man is exonerated, it's as if his trial, conviction and prison time never happened. There are few programs set up to help these men and women.

Grab a copy of this book if you can and read it. It is enlightening.

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