11 February 2014

Some Terrible News



The number of people exonerated after they were falsely convicted of crimes in the US has reached an historic high, with 87 walking free last year.
A new report from the National Registry of Exonerations finds that almost a third of the people in 2013’s unprecedented crop of exonerations were convicted in cases in which, in fact, no crime was committed – a record-breaking number in itself. Some 22 men and five women were given sentences ranging from probation to life, yet when their convictions were investigated, they were not only found to be innocent, but it was discovered that no offence had occurred in the first place.

While I do not want to make light of the terrible injustices suffered by those who were jailed in spite of being completely innocent of any crime, it seems like this stat is more a cause for celebration than lamentation.  I say this because, when you think about it, it’s downright miraculous that a legal system that currently serves over 300 million people has only had to correct for 87 mistakes this year.

Again, I don’t wish to make light of people being wrongfully imprisoned, but this is a pretty decent system, all things considered.  Compared to the USSR or Maoist China, there isn’t really any reason to complain about courtroom injustice, at least insofar as legal administration is concerned.  Frankly, a lot of countries would kill to have a legal system this good.

Now, concerns about the laws being administered, and the specific processes of administration are a whole ‘nother matter, but a system that doesn’t have a lot of false positives is definitely a good thing, and doesn’t really deserve a lot of complaint.