The collision between law and science
wasn't obvious until DNA evidence freed the first innocent man whose conviction was
overturned because a scientific DNA test proved that the wrong man was convicted.
Since then, Barry Scheck reports that " "... the number of exonerations [due to tests
of DNA] far outnumbers the number of inclusions"." In other words, we have scientific proof that
more than half of the convictions ordered by the American legal system where DNA evidence
was available and has been tested were the wrong man.
When you know that such an important
American institution has such a faulty track record, then the other convictions where the
DNA did match cannot be trusted. This isn't a matter of not trusting some portion or
percentage of those other convictions--NONE of them can be trusted because you don't have
any way to know which is which. A reasonable person might argue that, if the system
is so flawed that it never stumbled across the facts about so many cases of false
convictions until forced to confront those facts with scientific proof of its error, that
at least half of the other cases are also based on the same faulty legal premises which
caused the problem in the first place. Unfortunately, we know with certainty that
the existing legal system is incapable of determining which of those are innocent, and we
know that the legal system itself is both incapable and undesirous of correcting the
error, so those potentially innocent men must sit in prison. When you consider
that this could possibly be two million men, the evils of slavery
pale by comparison.
There are several facts that we as a
Christian nation must confront regardless of our vision of our own legal system:
The US, with only 4.5% of the world's
population, has one third of the world's jail and prison inmates.
We are one of the last remaining
countries around the world with capital punishment, and already 32 men who were executed
have been proven to have been innocent.
Most countries have both lower crime
rates and lower incarceration rates (Japan has one quarter the crime rate and one
twentieth the incarceration rate).
Three quarters of the executions of children in the world were in the US.
84 men sentenced to death were proven
*after* decades of imprisonment to have been innocent of the crime.
Public servants whose tampering with
DNA evidence was proven to have caused false convictions were promoted
rather than imprisoned or fired.
The few cases which were proven by
DNA testing to be false convictions are a representative sample of the entire judicial
American men are 1,678 times more likely than Japanese or Italian or Greek men to
be accused of rape.
There's nothing unique about a crime in
which DNA evidence was available. Both a robbery case and a rape case are
investigated and tried by the same people in the same system. The potential for
error is just as likely, or unlikely, in a robbery case as it is in a rape case.
There are only two differences today between such cases:
DNA is such overwhelming scientific
proof of someone's innocence that prosecutors and judges cannot ignore it.
DNA evidence *may* prove someone's
innocence prior to conviction, which *may* cause DNA-related cases to have a lower
conviction rate than other cases. If this is true, then DNA-related cases would be
expected to have a lower false conviction rate than non-DNA-related cases.
One possible bias in the subset could
be that a higher percentage of inmates who both know they are innocent and know that the
DNA evidence would prove their innocence would be more likely to demand a retrial than
inmates who are guilty, but this high false conviction rate makes such a bias
statistically insignificant. These DNA studies are statistical proof that "the number of [false convictions] far
outnumbers the number of [true convictions]". In other words, science has proven that law is wrong:
the statistical evidence is that there are more than a million men in prison right now who
were falsely convicted by the American legal system.
The dynamics by which we have such a
high incarceration rate at the same time that we have such a high crime rate are complex,
but one fact is clear: falsely convicting an innocent man will not reduce crime.
If this has any impact at all on crime rates, it is that many of these innocent men
will use their own methods to correct the injustice and thus increase the crime rate.
For example, the murder rate would accelerate 33% if only 5% of the million men in
prison right now who might have been falsely convicted were to kill the person responsible
for that false conviction. Those who are destroying the DNA evidence right now in
order to conceal these false convictions are contributing greatly to the increasing crime
rate. Putting innocent men in prisons with career criminals is a great way to spread
the criminal technology.
A perplexing problem about such a
system is the complete lack of analytical skills and morals that would have been necessary
to have caused such a monstrous travesty of justice. This could not have been
due only to sheer stupidity--it required a massive dose of amorality. And it could
not have due only to sheer amorality--it also required a massive dose of stupidity.
The 2.5 million men and women who make up the army of police, lawyers, judges, jailers,
prison guards, and other public servants who are collectively the "judicial
system" possess an abundance of both traits. They are not at all typical of the
Of all the people in the country whom
you would expect to have a complete grasp of analytical skills are judges and lawyers, but lawyers (and judges who once were lawyers) have
some of the lowest GRE Quantitative scores of any profession, at 496, just slightly higher
than social workers and home economics majors. Conversely, chemistry, physics, math,
and engineering majors score 150 to 210 points higher. It is precisely the wrong
people, social workers with scores of 454 and lawyers with scores of 496, who were given
our crown jewels, who then engineered the colossal legal catastrophe looming just around
Who are the people behind this?
Why did they create such a system? Why do they let it perpetuate itself?
Regardless of the argument that "this is not a religious problem", it is a fact
of life that this occured under the watch of jews. Even though they are only 1.9% of
the population, more than half of the law professors and
students at Harvard Law School and twenty percent of
American teachers are jews. The simple fact that they were over-represented in law
by 25 fold at the very same time that jewish judges displaced qualified White men with
unqualified women and blacks makes them at least a party to the transaction. They
cannot avoid responsibility by claiming that they were just an innocent party--because
they ran the show. The fact that they were over-represented in education by ten fold
at the same time that SAT scores plunged 98 points, leaving the US dead last in 17 of 34
TIMSS subjects, makes them responsible for the catastrophe regardless of their intentions
or possible claims of innocence. They intentionally took on the task so they must
bear the responsibility for the failure.
A Few Pages from The Mirror of Justices (c. 1290)
By PETER LINEBAUGH
With the Supreme Court nicely toying once again about who is to live and
who is to die as it considers the death penalty for juveniles and as the
American casualties in Iraq yesterday included three teenagers, it is well
past the time to chop legal logic, or merely vote for the dime's worth of
difference between Bush-Kerry troop levels.
Turning a forgotten page from the annals of time, let us review a selection
from the thirteenth century London fishmonger, Andrew Horn, whose
underground classic, The Mirror of Justices, was not printed until 1642 nor
translated until 1646, those revolutionary years preceding the beheading of
Though written in French, the language of the feudal masters, Andrew Horn
praised King Alfred whose chagrined submission to the scolding of the
housewife, after he forgot to take the bread out of the oven in time to
prevent its burning, endeared him to successive generations of cooks,
bakers, and humble folk. (What was he doing in her kitchen in the first
place? Apparently, he was in hiding having run away from battle.) Horn
brings forth other reasons why this monarch, bad baker and reluctant
soldier though he was, alone among all England's kings and queens, is
F.W. Maitland, Horn's Victorian editor (Selden Society Publications, volume
seven, 1893), noted his "curious leanings towards liberty and equality." He
argued that Horn's understanding of the memory of Alfred among the
indigenous English was a "daring fable." As reasons, Maitland sees
circumspection in the naming of the judges, and surely the names are weird,
not the kind of names that we recognize as normal, like Thomas, Scalia, or
Horn attributes to Alfred the policy of lex talionis which in our day has
become a sly accompaniment to prosecutorial blood-thirstiness, sadly saying
that capital punishment is part of the 'grieving process' for the victims
of violent crimes. Slay the young: that the old may 'move on.'
So from Book V of The Mirror of Justices here is abuse number 108 (pp. 166-
"It is an abuse that justices and their officers who slay folk by false
judgments are not destroyed like other homicides. And King Alfred in one
year had forty-four judges hanged as homicides for
their false judgments.
"He hanged Watling, for that he had judged Sidulf to death for receiving
Edulf his son, who was afterwards acquitted of the principal crime
"He hanged Signer, who had judged Ulf to death after a sufficient acquittal.
"He hanged Eadwine, for that he judged Hathewy to death without the assent
of all the jurors when he had put himself upon a jury of twelve men; and
because three against nine were for saving him, Eadwine removed those three
and put in their stead other thjree, upon whom Hathewy had never put
"He hanged Coel for judging to death Yve, who was a lunatic.
"He hanged Malmere for judging to death Prat, who, when desperate, had made
a false confession of felony.
"He hanged Athulf for hanging Copping, who was under the age of twenty-one
"He hanged Markes, for that he judged Duning to death upon the verdict of
twelve men who had not been sworn.
"He hanged Oscelin, foR that he judged Seaman to death under a vicious
warrant founded on a false suggestion, which supposed that Seaman was in
prison before that he really was so.
"He hanged Billing, for that he judged Lefston to death by fraud in this
manner. Billing said to the people, ï¿½Sit down all of you who did not kill
the man;' and then, because Lefston did not sit down with the rest, he
commanded that he should e hanged, and said that he had made a sufficient
confession by not sitting down.
"He hanged Sefoul, for that he judged Ording to death for want of an answer.
"He hanged Thurstan, for that he judged Thurgnor to death on a verdict
taken ex officio on which Thurgnor had not put himself.
"He hanged Athelstone, for that he judged Herbert to death for a sin that
was not mortal.
"He hanged Rumbold, for that he judged Lifchil tto death in a case that was
not notorious, without appeal or indictment.
"He hanged Rof, for that he judged Dunston to death for escape from prison.
"He hanged Freberne, for that he judged Harpin to death when the jurors
were in doubt about their verdict, for in case of doubt one should rather
save than condemn.
"He hanged Sibright, for that he judged Athelbrus to death for that he
would not execute on of his (Sibright's) false mortal judgments.
"He hanged Hale, for that he saved from death Tristram the sheriff, who had
taken wine for the king's use, because between taking what is another's
without his will and robbery there is no difference.
"He hanged Arnolt, for that he saved bailiffs who robbed folk by color of
distress, some of them by alienating naams and others by extortion of
fines, because between the extortion of a fine for the release of a naam
and robbery there is no difference.
"He hanged Erkenwold, for that he hanged Franling for no other cause than
because he taught one whom he had vanquished in battle to say the word
"He hanged Bemond, for that he had Garbolt's head cut off by a judgment
given in England on an outlawry in Ireland.
"He hanged Alkemund, for that he saved Cateman, who was attainted for
hamsoken, by treating it as a mere case of disseisin.
"He hanged Saxmund, for that he hanged Berild in England where the king's
writ ran, for a deed done in a part of the same land in which the king's
writ did not run.
"He hanged Alflet, for that he adjudged to death a clerk over whom he could
have no cognizance.
"He hanged Piron, for that he judged Hunting to death, because he caused a
judgment to be executed before the fortieth day, pending an appeal to the
king by writ of false judgment.
"He hanged Dilling for hanging Edous, who had slain a man by misadventure.
"He hanged Oswy, for that at night time he judged Blithe to death.
"He hanged Osbert, for that when not in a consistory he judged Fulcher to
"He hanged Horn, for that on a prohibited day he hanged Swein.
"He hanged Bulmer, for that he judged Gerent to death for the larceny of a
thing that he had received by bailment.
"He hanged Thurbern, for that he judged Osgot to death for a deed of which
he had already been acquitted as against the same plaintiff; and Osgot
offered to aver the acquittal by a jury, and Thurbern would not receive the
allegation of acquittal because Osgot did not offer to aver it by the
"He hanged Wolfston, for that he judged Hubert to death at the king's suit
for a deed which Hubert had confessed, whereas the king had pardoned his
suit; but Hubert had no charter of pardon, but vouched the king to
warranty, and in addition offered to aver the pardon by the enrolment in
"He hanged Osketil, for that he judged Culling to death on the record of
the coroner, where an allowable replication was not allowed him. The case
was this: Culling was taken and tortured until he confessed a mortal sin,
and this he did to be quit of further torture; and Osketel [sic] judged him
to death on his confession made to the coroner, without trying the truth of
the allegation as o the torture and the other facts.
"And besides this, the coroners, officers, assessors, and those who
tortured folk, and those who could have disturbed the false judgments but
did not do so, were hanged whenever the justices were hanged, for King
Alfred hanged all the judges whom he could attaint of having falsely saved
a guilty man from death, or falsely hanged folk against law or in the teeth
of a reasonable exception."
Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. He is the
author of two of CounterPunch's favorite books, The London Hanged and (with
Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the
Revolutionary Atlantic. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org