Thursday, July 28, 2005

Stupid if He's Smart, Smart if He's Stupid!

In Virginia, USA, the courts will perform an IQ test to see whether a bloke convicted of murder ought to be executed. If his IQ falls below 70, he will be spared. If he is more intelligent than the quotient of 70, he will be “off-ed”.

It seems that the bloke had been tested before, and his score was 59 in 1998, but recently went up to 74 and 76. Ironically, with the recent increase in IQ he ought to be considered stupid because he has put himself some 4 to 6 quotient counts over the fatal line.

But jokes aside, the bloke Daryl Atkins was a young 18 when he and another person William Jones killed a man for beer money. Now this is the part that is uniquely America – namely ‘plea bargaining’.

‘Plea bargaining’ can take many shapes and forms for various reasons, but it has least to do with real justice. What screwed Atkins has been one where the prosecutors reached an agreement with Jones to testify against Atkins so that Jones received a life sentence in exchange for becoming the prosecution witness.

I wonder whether this unique American legal system has anything to do with the American privatized system where District Attorneys and prosecutors are elected, among other factors, on their record of convictions. Naturally such public attorneys want maximum success to support their re-elections, so ‘plea bargaining’ promotes more cooperative witnesses to support successful convictions.

Sometimes ‘plea bargaining’ takes the more draconian form of “OK you may not be guilty and I [the law] don’t give a shit. If you plead guilty anyway you’ll be guaranteed tops 5 years and with good behaviour etc get out in 3, but if you choose to fight and lose, I [the law] will ensure you get life or possibly the death sentence.”

Many innocent victims have submitted themselves to a jail term just to avoid the more repressive alternatives.

Scott Turow, famous crime author as well as a real lawyer, in his book
Ultimate Punishment (about the death sentence in America - I haven't finished the book yet) provided an example in the earlier pages where in the case of Roland Cruz and Alex Hernandez, convicted twice for murder which they didn't commit, was finally proven innocent when the real killer, one Brian Dugan was arrested and confessed to those murders. Turow related that even after this, the DuPage county prosecution still stubbornly refused to acknowledge their innocence or even question Dugan to get the truth, but instead went to the extent of attempting to rubbish Dugan's confession for 10 years. The DuPage prosecution pursued the case to put Cruz and Hernandez away for good until they finally caved in when Cruz was acquitted for a third time, and both men released.

It seems to me to be a case of the prosecution's overwhelming need to protect their record, even if two innocent men had to go to the gallows.

Wasn’t it former Secretary of State Madame Madeleine Albright who lectured Malaysia on due process?

No comments:

Post a Comment