Friday, August 31, 2007

The Innocent Man and Capital Punishment.

“Many men have been hanged on far slighter evidence,” I remarked.“So they have. And many men have been wrongfully hanged.” - Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan

I just finished reading "The Innocent Man" of John Grisham. It definetly rattled me. More than that it made me think and rethink about the so called justice delivery and about Capital Punishment.
In my teens I have had the "tit for tat" attitude and still I have confess I have traces of it. I always believed in the "Retributive theory of punishment", and felt that "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" definitely made sense and is fair. I have always maintained that the reformatory theories and the "correctional " prison system which intended the Criminal to regret the crime committed was an "utopian idea" and was never going to work .

But it is true that the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the whole world would soon be blind and toothless" made me think . But I let it off after a good laugh on it as my alligience to the retributive theory was so deep and well founded. With this (thought) background it would be no surprise to know that I have always been an ardent supporter of capital punishment.

But changing times brought some changes to my attitude and thoughts. I started thinking "prudently". I understood that we are living in a "not so perfect" world and not all the convicts are criminals in a real sense . Judicial decisions doesnt necessarly be right, as the evidence can be fabricated, wittnesses can be bought . And also that not all the criminal activities are "crime"as I started understanding the notions of "Necessity", "Private defense" etc. And also that the word "Criminal" is not an inclusive one.

Now after reading the "The Innocent Man" I am shocked. The review of the book is true to its words. "....If u believe in death penalty this book will disturb u . If u believe the criminal Justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you..". Men sentenced to death for a crime they have not committed and that too without any direct or circumstantial evidence . They waiting in death row for many years..Police and prosecution lazy to arrest the real culprits even though they have all the DNA evidence with them. A person arrested and sentenced for death on a "dream confession" Confessions taken forcibly and used against them, though self incrimination is against constitutuional guarantees. Trial and conviction of an innocent, mentally unstable, indigent man. And all these overlooked by the judges who are supposed to be the "guardian angels" of justice. My first thoughts was "What world are we leaving in"?. Then I comforted myself thinking "After all it is a fiction. No one can mess up this much and no justice delivery can be this blind."

I cant express my shock when I found the photographs of the characters in midpages. Only then I realized it was a true story and not a fiction as I had comforted myself. The pains they endured to come out of jail and after releasing, the fear with which they live in this society, the suspicion the members of the society still have on them even after they have proved to be innocent, the non acceptance by their church. And I wonder how cruel/blind our criminal system is. Who is answerable to their losing years ( Many of them arrested in 20's . Prime of everyones life and released after 15 or 20 years.)? The investigating officers, prosecutors, snitch wittneses, jury, judge ????

I remember a convict asking the question "Is it innocent till proven guilty or guilty till proven innocent"??
It made me think do we really need capital punishment??? Is our justice delivery "a myth"?


Anonymous said...

really innocent

John Brown said...

Having just finished reading "The Innocent Man", which I found compelling, I was left with a sense of disbelief at the seemingly incompetent and corrupt local law enforcement and legal system. I was surprised that nobody seemed to have lost their job and that District Attorney Bill Peterson still held that position today.
My interest piqued I sought out more information about the case and found a website set up by Mr Peterson addressing John Grishams book. His section on “Exposing The Truth” is a must read for those who wish to be able to take a balanced view of the investigation and prosecution of Ron Williams and Dennis Fritz. He is clearly bitter towards Grisham, and I don't accept several of his ascertains and their significance, but I do think he makes some very valid points regarding “The Innocent Man” and how the facts are spun for dramatic effect. The bottom line is that 2 men were undoubtedly wrongly convicted so there had to be problems with the system, but while John Grisham would leave you with ideas of incompetence, corruption and a vendetta against the 2 defendants, I now believe this to be far from reality.
The Innocent Man puts the Ada law enforcement and legal system itself on trial and puts the case for the prosecution; it’s only fair that you should also hear the case for the defence before making up your mind.