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America's Most Fair-Minded Prosecutor:

Radley Balko interviews Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who is dramatically moving his office away from a traditional "convict at all costs" mentality, to a philosophy that the prosecutors' role is to pursue justice, not rack up convictions.

Balko suggests he's America's best prosecutor. I don't know about that, and the interview doesn't actual discuss his skills in prosecuting crimes. But Watkins certainly seems like a fair-minded breath of fresh air, who takes the biblical injunction "tzedek, tzedek tirdof" (justice, justice thou shalt pursue) seriously.

Qwerty:
Balderdash. Is the presumption here that convicting criminals does not create "justice"? From the standpoint of the victims, putting criminals in jail is nothing else but justice. Let the defense do what it does - the DA's job is to put criminals behind bars.
4.8.2008 12:52pm
Mr. X (www):
Is the presumption here that convicting criminals does not create "justice"? From the standpoint of the victims, putting criminals in jail is nothing else but justice. Let the defense do what it does - the DA's job is to put criminals behind bars.


As you will note from the interview, the previous prosecutor was of the opinion that convictions were to be pursued even against those who were likely innocent. Surely we can agree that convicting people who are not actually guilty does not create justice and that a prosecutor who is careful not to prosecute cases where the evidence is flimsy or guilt is in doubt is doing what is right.
4.8.2008 1:01pm
Curt Fischer:

The DA's job is to put criminals behind bars.


Unfortunately for you, this is not the view of the American Bar Association or the state of Texas (according to the article).


Is the presumption here that convicting criminals does not create "justice"?


No, the presumption is that convicting everyone charged does not create "justice". Did you read the article?
4.8.2008 1:05pm
tbaugh (mail):
"a traditional 'convict at all costs' mentality"??

Well, THAT's revealing.
4.8.2008 1:05pm
Tired:
from a traditional "convict at all costs" mentality, to a philosophy that the prosecutors' role is to pursue justice, not rack up convictions.

Don't the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct, the ABA, the Texas Lawyers Creed, and nearly every state ethics court set this as the standard?
4.8.2008 1:09pm
Jiminy (mail):
While we are at it, can we have police officers get back to patrolling neighborhoods on foot instead of sitting in cruisers all day long?
4.8.2008 1:11pm
Dan Weber (www):
The DA has tremendous power to destroy. That power is supposed to be wielded with responsibility, and as citizens we shouldn't lean back and say "well, I guess that's the problem of the grand jury / defense attorney."
4.8.2008 1:12pm
McGrath (mail):
Qwerty's got it half right. The DA's job is in fact to put criminals, and only criminals, behind bars.
4.8.2008 1:16pm
dew:
I have no expertise here, but two things seemed odd:

"After taking office, Watkins dismissed nine top-level prosecutors in the office. Nine others left voluntarily. "
Is a turnover of 18 top prosecutors in a large city DA office normal when the DA changes? It seems the interviewer did not ask about that.

"But if there are procedures available to increase the validity of a form of evidence, and police and prosecutors aren’t using it, then they’re deliberately increasing the chances of a wrongful conviction in order to get more convictions."
Without any detail, this seemed to me a rather disingenuous statement - for example, what if the police don't have the budget for training or equipment for these "procedures"? Are they still "deliberately" increasing the chances of a wrongful conviction? Or does he just mean simple things that should be SOP that investigators might not be doing?
4.8.2008 1:23pm
Freddy Hill:
Watkins dodges the questions on proper budget allocation between prosecutions vs. innocence investigations. And when he says "... if we find even one more person who has been wrongly convicted, then yes, it is cost effective." he totally loses me.
4.8.2008 1:25pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

...the interview doesn't actual discuss his skills in prosecuting crimes.


Um, David, isn't that the wrong measure? It appears to assume that "successful prosecution" is the goal, and it would seem that is directly contrary to his stated intentions.
4.8.2008 1:34pm
Jiminy (mail):
That way they could pursue a safe neighborhood and recreate the valuable community partnerships that come from knowing the beat cop who walks the streets every day, vs the scary-looking police cruisers with sinister tinted windows and just waiting to pull you over for driving while looking shady...
4.8.2008 1:35pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

...the DA's job is to put criminals behind bars.


Only as long as they are criminals. There've been an awful lot of examples recently (Duke/Nifong for example) where the aim seems to have been to put someone behind bars, without a whole lot of concern about whether they actually committed a crime or not.
4.8.2008 1:37pm
great unknown (mail):
It should be interesting to compare his successful prosecutions ratio with those of other DAs - after subtracting out those overturned on appeal for withholding exculpatory evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, etc.
4.8.2008 1:43pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Without any detail, this seemed to me a rather disingenuous statement - for example, what if the police don't have the budget for training or equipment for these "procedures"? Are they still "deliberately" increasing the chances of a wrongful conviction? Or does he just mean simple things that should be SOP that investigators might not be doing?
I obviously don't know specifically what he was referring to with that statement, but there are essentially free reforms. For instance, when conducting a photo lineup, show the witness the pictures serially rather than all at once in an array. Studies show that this significantly reduces the chance of faulty ID. Also, have the person conducting the photo lineup be one of the officers who isn't working on the case, so he doesn't know who the "right" answer is, and can't unconsciously (or consciously) signal it to the witness.
4.8.2008 1:44pm
Adam J:
dew- Ah yes, the "it's not in the budget" argument, that's certainly valid... Sorry we couldn't analyze that DNA that would have exculpated you, but it wasn't in the budget. Now if you want to argue that the value of these procedures are outweighed by their cost, that's at least a legitimate argument. But if you're claiming justice on the cheap is okay, particularly when it involves a person's freedom, that's a bit ridiculous.
4.8.2008 1:45pm
Prufrock765 (mail):
The quote used by Freddy is significant.
Prosecutor's offices do not run on outrage or ideology or some sort of fascistic sadism, they run on money--money that is appropriated by the county budgetary executive. This is but one constraint on a hypothetical "convict at all costs" mindset. Another is finite jail space. Another is the need to face the electorate every 4 years.
A "convict at all costs" (by which I assume is meant: "get the max punishment at all costs", since a conviction on a much lesser charge is almost always a given) prosecutor would be quickly out of money in any given fiscal year.

I have been a county prosecutor and I have dealt with them from the other side for many years. The vast majority are competent and mostly well-meaning people who are aware of the constraints mentioned above.

...And 18 prosecutors in an office the size of Dallas is, in and of itself, no big deal. Now if it was a staged en masse resignation of the 18 most experienced attorneys, that would be very significant. But then you need to ask whether they were a bunch of lazy deadwood or whether they had a legitimate grievance.
4.8.2008 1:50pm
Steve P. (mail):
I'd be very interested in a cost-benefit analysis of overturning wrongful convictions. It's a good thing to do morally, of course (and bad when a real criminal isn't brought to justice), but let's slice that out and only look at the economics. What does it cost?

Those two lawyers and two investigators get a salary, and the lab that runs the DNA evidence gets a fee. Weigh that against the extrapolated cost of keeping however many people in jail for whatever their sentence was. Include trial costs and estimated appeals costs for going after a possibly innocent person on flimsy evidence (someone who would have been prosecuted under the old system, but not the new). Seems a bit murky, but there's surely some good quantitative analysis to be done here.
4.8.2008 1:51pm
cjwynes (mail):
Our office's policy is not to file charges unless we are convinced the suspect is guilty of the offense AND that we are likely to convict him of it. The ethical rules, and good sense in exercising prosecutorial discretion, demand no less than this. There's nothing particularly special about that, nor is it unique to any one self-proclaimed maverick DA.

These "innocence projects" are a colossal waste of money, if you actually examine some of these supposed "exonerations" they turn out to be nothing of the kind. I agree that if convincing evidence of the accused's innocense falls into a DA's lap, he has obligations to do something about it. Where I would likely disagree with this Watkins guy is what constitutes evidence of innocence that is sufficiently substantive to merit looking into it. We all know that genuinely innocent defendants, let alone genuinely innocent *convicts*, are rare birds. For every "one-armed man" who really exists there are a million cock-n-bull stories pitched by guilty-as-hell defendants to their attorneys, jailors, and anybody who will listen to them.
4.8.2008 1:54pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Wow, CJ's comments are pretty revealing, especially since a very large percentage of the exonerations by "so called innoncence projects" are based on DNA evidence excluding the convicted individual from being the perpetrator.

As for Watkins' skill as prosecuting, it's great that he wants to prosecute only the guilty, but I wouldn't proclaim him America's best prosecutor unless I knew that he was very good at his job, too. Getting the bad guys off the street is part of his job, after all.
4.8.2008 1:59pm
hattio1:
Prufrock says;

...And 18 prosecutors in an office the size of Dallas is, in and of itself, no big deal. Now if it was a staged en masse resignation of the 18 most experienced attorneys, that would be very significant.


According to the article his predecessor (sp?) took pride in being able to convict the innocent. If I took over an office like that, I'd be VERY tempted to fire all of the experienced prosecutors, or at least anyone who indicated in the slightest that being able to convict the innocent was anything except disgustingly shameful.
4.8.2008 2:01pm
Zathras (mail):
Craig Watkins's getting the job was purely fortuitous (for him and IMHO for Dallas County as well). Dallas County had been in the hands of the GOP for over 20 years. Getting on the county Democratic Party ballot did not take a huge amount of effort.

In 2006, however, Dallas County had it's own mini-Democratic wave, with almost every contested Republican losing. Republcian judges, both good and bad, were swept from office. Watkins had only to ride this wave into office. And Dallas County is probably better for it.
4.8.2008 2:06pm
Bored Lawyer:
A prosecutor who convicts someone knowing he is innocent is himself engaged in a crime of denying someone their Constitutional rights. Such prosecutor should be prosecuted. (He enjoys civil but not criminal immunity.)
4.8.2008 2:08pm
hattio1:
Steve p,
I would suggest that there's another benefit besides the moral and the purely economic to freeing the innocent. When the poor and minorities (and that's mostly who gets convicted, both rightly and wrongly) see that there are heroic efforts to get it right, they're less likely to, for example, riot, shoot police officers, do drugs. They are more likely to take long term investments in themselves and their communities (college, starting businesses etc). If the poor and minorities truly believe that it all can be taken away from them just for being a black, hispanic, etc in the wrong place at the wrong time (and I guarantee you in many places they do) they are less likely to invest in themselves and their community, and more likely to engage in risky behavior (like dealing drugs).



cjwynnes;
A lot of my clients cannot tell a consistent story from one day to the next. I figure those folks probably are not telling me the truth. Some tell a consistent story from day one through trial. If they continue to tell one story, through years of appeals, I figure they're probably innocent.
4.8.2008 2:09pm
overlord:
Craig Watkins's getting the job was purely fortuitous (for him and IMHO for Dallas County as well). Dallas County had been in the hands of the GOP for over 20 years. Getting on the county Democratic Party ballot did not take a huge amount of effort.

In 2006, however, Dallas County had it's own mini-Democratic wave, with almost every contested Republican losing. Republcian judges, both good and bad, were swept from office. Watkins had only to ride this wave into office. And Dallas County is probably better for it.


Now THAT is good news-- I have a tort case in Dallas my firm needs to file suit on. Time to collect some justice!

Yet another reason this is my favorite site!
4.8.2008 2:12pm
dearieme:
Gosh, people will be suggesting that expert witnesses should stop indulging in fiction next.
4.8.2008 2:18pm
Prufrock765 (mail):
Bored:
OT, I stipulate, but I am curious.
Has your state legisature passed a criminal statute regarding "depriving someone of his constitutional rights"? Does the federal section 1983 statute have a criminal analogue? Is RICO somehow involved?
4.8.2008 2:21pm
Zathras (mail):
False convictions also had been an issue in Dallas for several years before Watkins was elected. See for details, or just google Dallas fake drug scandal.
4.8.2008 2:24pm
Zathras (mail):
Oops, that link didn't work. Here it is.
4.8.2008 2:24pm
Bored Lawyer:
Prufrock:
Here are two candidates:

Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights:


18 U.S.C. § 241. Conspiracy against rights
If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or
If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured—
They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.


Willful Violation of Civil Rights Under Color of Law:


18 U.S.C. § 242. Deprivation of rights under color of law
Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.
4.8.2008 2:28pm
DiverDan (mail):

After taking office, Watkins dismissed nine top-level prosecutors in the office. Nine others left voluntarily. "
Is a turnover of 18 top prosecutors in a large city DA office normal when the DA changes? It seems the interviewer did not ask about that


No, and neither did the interviewer ask about Watkins' predecessors' almost fanatical zeal to keep blacks off of any jury that might not convict a black defendant, to the extent that senior prosecutors had a laundry list of plausible, but false, non-racial excuses to keep blacks off of juries. Also, Dallas prosecutors prior to Watkins were notorious for viewing their obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence under Brady as an inconvenience, to be ignored in all cases. While I do not know who Watkins fired, or who left voluntarily, that office desparately needed a clean sweep. The deck is almost always stacked against any criminal defendants who cannot afford a ton of money to put up a meaningful defense, even when prosecutors follow the rules. Dallas record for false convictions, manufactured evidence, and prosecutors who regularly and willfully violated the law on disclosure of exculpatory evidence and racially discriminatory jury selection was abysmal before Watkins. While it was purely an accident of timing that he was swept in by a democratic tide in 2006, it was a fortuitous accident for Dallas County.
4.8.2008 2:46pm
DLS (www):
In case you're interested, Craig Watkins participated in a symposium on prosecutorial power sponsored by American University and ACS — he participated in a panel discussion on prosecutorial misconduct. A link to video of the discussion is available here.
4.8.2008 2:49pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
It is horribly frightening that anyone could disagree with the intent and policy of this prosecutor. Absolutely mortifying.

On a related note, Justice means victims won't always get closure and will often have to just suck it up and go on with life. That's justice.
4.8.2008 2:58pm
Milhouse (www):
That Biblical injunction applies just as much to defense lawyers as it does to prosecutors. That's why the Rabbis disapproved of lawyers as a class (see, e.g., Avot 1:8). It is just as unjust to procure the acquittal of a guilty person as the conviction of an innocent one. If defenders are allowed to put to the jury arguments in which they don't believe, because they don't know for sure that the're not true, then why shouldn't prosecutors do the same? If the theory is that the jury should hear the best possible arguments for both cases and sort them out, then how can it do this when it really only hears the best possible argument for the defense, but the second- or third-best possible argument for the prosecution?
4.8.2008 3:02pm
Ben P (mail):

It is just as unjust to procure the acquittal of a guilty person as the conviction of an innocent one.


So innocent until proven guilty is turned into "eh, as long as the prosecutor could lie better?"
4.8.2008 3:04pm
Tax Lawyer:
Apparently, the prosecutor takes seriously the words of Mr. Justice Sutherland, when he wrote:

The [prosecutor] is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor-- indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.

Berger v. U.S., 295 U.S. 78 (1935) (emphasis added)

The philosophy has never been stated beter than that. It is a bedrock principle of our criminal justice system, and an irrefutable answer to the regrettably common attitude expressed by the first commenter.
4.8.2008 3:11pm
byomtov (mail):
Watkins' predecessors' almost fanatical zeal to keep blacks off of any jury that might not convict a black defendant, to the extent that senior prosecutors had a laundry list of plausible, but false, non-racial excuses to keep blacks off of juries.

What's this? Racism in the justice system? Say it ain't so.
4.8.2008 3:20pm
anon252 (mail):
As I recall, defense attorneys are even allowed to argue theories that they absolutely know aren't true. E.g., they go to the prosecutor with a plea deal, offering to tell the prosecutor where the body is buried. Prosecutor says "no." Lawyer then, knowing his client did it, argues to the jury that someone else did it. This should be against the rules of professional conduct, but is not. It's one thing to make the prosecutor prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt, it's another to deliberately mislead the jury.
4.8.2008 3:22pm
Steve P. (mail):
hattio1 — public goodwill is notoriously hard to gauge, from an economic standpoint. How can you be sure that criminal A would not have engaged in criminal activity, if it weren't for police distrust? It's easy to find various correllations between measurable variables, but to control for enough of the variables to prove causation is another thing entirely.

It's not to say that there isn't an effect, but many other things are much more measurable. This project would need a very discrete, limited scope, to avoid getting caught up in minutiae that may or may not affect the cost/savings of the new leadership in Dallas.
4.8.2008 3:23pm
cjwynes (mail):
David has a very simplistic view of the value of new DNA evidence. Excluding a defendant from matching a DNA sample found at the crime scene does not ordinarily exclude them from being the perpetrator of the crime.

Let's make up a hypothetical murder. Suppose that in the 1980's, Delores was convicted of murdering Vicki by stabbing her ten times with a butcher's knife. Evidence demonstrating Delores's guilt includes the testimony of Vicki's neighbor who heard screaming coming from Vicki's house and shortly thereafter saw Delores' car driving away, the testimony of several witnesses who overheard Delores say "I'm gonna kill that bitch Vicki" earlier in the evening, Delores's boyfriend saw her throwing bloody clothes into the garbage the next morning, and so on. Now in addition to all that, the DA also presented evidence at the trial that along with Vicki's blood there was also blood on the knife that could not have come from Vicki. In closing argument, the DA makes an argument in passing that the mystery-blood on the knife is Delores's blood, and that she accidentally cut herself during the encounter. Years later, some law professor from Chicago comes along and gets a court order to test the knife for DNA. The result is that the mystery-blood could not have come from Delores.

Does this in any way *exonerate* her? Absolutely NOT, there are any number of ways that blood from some third party may have gotten on that knife, and it was only a small part of the state's case against her. Would a defense attorney have used that fact to create reasonable doubt and win her an acquittal had it been known at the time? Maybe. A reasonable person could argue that uncovering this sort of evidence ought to lead to a new trial, but no reasonable person could suggest that this proves *innocence*.

Only in the limited subset of cases wherein excluding a person from matching a DNA sample logically excludes them from having committed the crime (i.e. rape case in which the victim is absolutely sure that the perpetrator did not use a condom) can it be said that such new DNA evidence demonstrates actual innocence.
4.8.2008 3:53pm
GV:
anon252, you might want to re-take professional ethics since your understanding of the obligations of defense attorneys is wrong in just about every (if not every) jurisdiction in this country.

. . .

A prosecutor's primary obligation is not to secure convictions even if the prosecutor knows the defendant is guilty. His or her primary obligation is to do justice. Period. Now, certainly, in most cases doing justice means making sure a person who committed a crime is convicted of that crime. But that is not always the case.
4.8.2008 4:12pm
Connecticut Lawyer (mail):
I clerked a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) for an appeals court judge, who had previously served as the US Atty for the SDNY, and he believed very strongly that prosecutors had a higher obligation than racking up convictions. Doing justice, even if it means a defendant goes free, is what prosecutors should do. He wasn't thrilled with the modern innovations of "perp walks" and trying cases in the press, either.
4.8.2008 4:15pm
BruceM (mail):
It is just as unjust to procure the acquittal of a guilty person as the conviction of an innocent one.

No, they're not even close. Convicting an innocent person (even a misdemeanor with probation) is far worse than acquitting 1000 guilty people (even rapists and murderers and terrorists).

Unfortunately it seems a growing number of people no longer realize this. They'd rather have innocent people in jail than guilty people walking the streets, because innocent people who are locked up are not a threat to them. Never mind the threat that YOU might be locked up, although innocent. Yes, it could happen to you.
4.8.2008 4:20pm
Adam J:
Connecticut lawyer- perp walks were modern innovations when you clerked? It really must have been a long time ago...

Cjwynes - Rather than posting hypotheticals, why don't you try using a real example to support your claim- since you claim to be so intimately aware of what really goes on with innocence projects.
4.8.2008 4:25pm
hattio1:
cjwynnes;
In other words, as long as the prosecutor can come up with some slightly plausible story, we should assume that the people arent' innocent. I'm sorry, most of the times when I've heard of acquittals based on DNA it was not like Delores, it was a major cornerstone of their case. And, it's not as if most of the cases that are being overturned now had no DNA, but rather had inconclusive DNA, or DNA that indicated up to 12% of the appropriate ethnic population would fit, etc.
4.8.2008 4:28pm
Adam J:
BruceM - I think your claim is a bit too strong... I'd take a misdemeanor for the team if it meant 1000 rapists and murders and terrorists going to prison...
4.8.2008 4:28pm
hattio1:
A question for those who posit they need to know more about his courtroom skills before they determine whether he is the best prosecutor in America. Does it matter if he will basically never be in a courtroom? My understanding (and I'm willing to be educated if wrong) is that in these big offices the head DA sets policy, administers budgets, makes the big decisions on the big cases, but rarely if ever tries cases. If that is so, does it matter what his courtroom skills are like? Is it at least fair for Balko to determine that he thinks this guy is the best based on what he actually does (administer, set policy), that Balko apparently thinks is badly needed in big DA's offices?
4.8.2008 4:33pm
dew:
Adam J: Ah yes, the "it's not in the budget" argument, that's certainly valid... Sorry we couldn't analyze that DNA that would have exculpated you, but it wasn't in the budget. Now if you want to argue that the value of these procedures are outweighed by their cost, that's at least a legitimate argument. But if you're claiming justice on the cheap is okay, particularly when it involves a person's freedom, that's a bit ridiculous.

I'm not sure what your point is here. I was asking a question, not making a statement about the value of spending money or not spending money. But thanks to David Nieporent, for giving excellent examples of possible free things that could be done.
4.8.2008 4:44pm
cjwynes (mail):
Adam J:

Scalia discusses some real cases in his concurring opinion in Kansas v. Marsh, cases that have been counted as exonerations but clearly are nothing of the sort.

Again, I think it's quite legitimate to argue, as some people do, that newly-discovered evidence sometimes creates enough doubt in the legitimacy of the verdict to merit a new trial, and to propose a procedure for such review. But the idea that there is a large number of factually innocent convicts rotting away in prisons across America is something that I think they have yet failed to demonstrate.
4.8.2008 5:01pm
Adam J:
Sorry then Dew, I thought you were attempting to claim it the prosecutor's statement was disingenious because there may be procedures that are outside some police forces' budget.
4.8.2008 5:02pm
Adam J:
cjwynes - thanks, I'll look at the opinion after work, however obviously innocence projects (and others) are going to exaggerate their effectiveness... last I checked every institution does so. Simply because some claims of success are exaggerated doesn't really undermine the fact that they really have helped innocent people be released from jail- and that, undoubtedly, is a good thing.

Also, I'm not sure what the numbers have to do with it. If there are innocent people in jail, whether it's a million innocent or a dozen innocent, what's wrong with innocence projects putting pressure on the system to find and release them? Obviously nothing.
4.8.2008 5:17pm
TerrencePhilip:
Dallas record for false convictions, manufactured evidence, and prosecutors who regularly and willfully violated the law on disclosure of exculpatory evidence and racially discriminatory jury selection was abysmal before Watkins.


What is the evidence for this? And how did Dallas compare to other metropolitan areas?
4.8.2008 5:21pm
Snowdog99 (mail):
While Mr. Watkins' comments appear reasonable, I noticed no one here bothered to "look under the hood" to determine the veracity of his supposed "fair mindedness". To wit, I present Exhibit A:

Turns out, Mr. Watkins is little more than a crook himself: failing to pay a slew of back taxes, and supporting a school board member convicted of spousal abuse. In the latter case, when Mr. Watkins was politely challenged on the issue, he said "Look, when you attack one of us, you attack all of us." Nice guy huh? Bet he doesn't have an agenda...Nooooo wayyy!
4.8.2008 5:29pm
Snowdog99 (mail):
Sorry, my link above didn't post correctly. Here it is again.
4.8.2008 5:31pm
one of many:
As a note, without even adressing the issue of relative worth of a innocent person being convicted and a guilty person not - if a wrongful conviction takes place TWO harms have been done, an innocent person is wrongly convicted and a guilty person escapes punishment, so it seems that ensuring that the person convicted is actually the person who commited the crime is worth twice as much as ensuring some person who did commit a crime does not go free.
4.8.2008 5:35pm
Philistine (mail):
cjwynes:


Scalia discusses some real cases in his concurring opinion in Kansas v. Marsh, cases that have been counted as exonerations but clearly are nothing of the sort.



But none of them appear to be DNA cases. Certainly nothing at all like your hypothetical.
4.8.2008 5:38pm
SeaLawyer:
This is what we get with innocence projects. Steven Avery.
4.8.2008 5:39pm
GV:
SeaLawyer, we also get car accidents with roads, so I guess we should do away with roads as well.
4.8.2008 6:06pm
Meh (mail):
I definitely don't agree with BruceM that convicting an innocent person of a misdemeanor (with probation) is far worse than acquitting 1000 rapists, murderers, and terrorists.
4.8.2008 6:07pm
drewsil (mail):

This is what we get with innocence projects. Steven Avery.

I don't get your point. An man was convicted of a crime he didn't commit, and latter exonerated. He was a bad man who had committed many other crimes, and committed more after he was released. Yes this is unfortunate, but what else would you have done? Is your argument that he should have been kept in jail solely because of his criminal history, which had already been punished? Perhaps your arguing that once someone has been in jail long enough they should be kept there indefinitely as they will assuredly have become a criminal, even if they weren't before?
4.8.2008 6:15pm
hattio1:
Snowdog99;
I checked out your link. It said nothing about failing to pay a slew of back taxes. As far as supporting someone who has a past DV conviction, that's not a crime. You, and the newspaper reporter, may think its wrong, but that's what elections are for. If you think that the school board member needs out, vote him out. How exactly does this make Craig Watkins look bad?
4.8.2008 6:19pm
davidb (mail):
CJWynes: You should read Paul Giannelli's most recent article on the horrible problems (often intentional abuses) in forensic science labs around the country before you make such broad statements about how few innocent people are rotting in jail. When you, e.g., have forensic "scientists" providing reports of autopsies that they never conducted, some innocent people are bound to get caught up. That's slightly off-topic for prosecutorial misconduct, but since forensic labs are attached to the prosecution, it's very relevant.
4.8.2008 6:26pm
Adam J:
Sealawyer- I'm curious Sealawyer, do you also blame Avery's parents? Would you blame a docotor for the murder if he were responsible for saving Avery's life? It seems pretty ridiculous to blame the innocence project, for rightly exonerating him of a crime he didn't commit, simply because it had the unfortunate consequences of enabling Avery to commit a murder.
4.8.2008 6:31pm
Bored Lawyer:

I don't get your point. An man was convicted of a crime he didn't commit, and latter exonerated. He was a bad man who had committed many other crimes, and committed more after he was released. Yes this is unfortunate, but what else would you have done? Is your argument that he should have been kept in jail solely because of his criminal history, which had already been punished? Perhaps your arguing that once someone has been in jail long enough they should be kept there indefinitely as they will assuredly have become a criminal, even if they weren't before?


Perhaps the sentences on the prior convictions were too lenient?
4.8.2008 6:37pm
hattio1:
Bored lawyer says;

Perhaps the sentences on the prior convictions were too lenient?

Wouldn't that be a problem with the sentences on the prior convictions, not the innocence project or worse yet the entire idea of an innocence project?
4.8.2008 7:02pm
SeaLawyer:

I'm curious Sealawyer, do you also blame Avery's parents?


Seeing as how they raised an entire family of criminals, yes I do.
4.8.2008 7:14pm
BruceM (mail):
Adam, yeah maybe a misdemeanor (though you shouldn't be forced to 'take one for the team')... but what about a felony with one year in prison? Would you take one for the team then?
4.8.2008 7:19pm
Bored Lawyer:

Bored lawyer says;

Perhaps the sentences on the prior convictions were too lenient?

Wouldn't that be a problem with the sentences on the prior convictions, not the innocence project or worse yet the entire idea of an innocence project?


That was my very point.
4.8.2008 7:30pm
Adam J:
Of course I shouldn't be forced, but the system is flawed, we're all human here and it can't tell with perfect accuracy who is guilty and who is innocent. Gotta be pragmatic about what degree of error we can accept with convictions, cause we're never going to get it right all the time and if we insist on that alot of criminals will get away with murder.

Right now we've decided we must find people guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt". If you changed that to "beyond a doubt", many many truly guilty people would go free, and its likely they would damage society far more than the injury that happens to the innocents who are wrongly convicted... particularly if criminals could know they can act without any real likelyhood of being caught &punished.
4.8.2008 8:01pm
hattio1:
bored lawyer,
My point was that the discussion was about the innocence project and what this guy did after being exonerated for a crime he didn't commit...not about the extent of punishment on whatever crimes he did commit.
4.8.2008 8:16pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Adam being pragmatic about error and knowing the system is never going to be 100% perfect is very different from knowing certain people are wrongly convicted and not caring about it (or, even worse, actively trying to convict innocent people as a test of prosecutorial skill... since a chimpanzee can convict a guilty person but it takes real skill to convict an innocent person).
4.8.2008 10:07pm
Vinnie (mail):
Steve P. (mail):
I'd be very interested in a cost-benefit analysis of overturning wrongful convictions. It's a good thing to do morally, of course (and bad when a real criminal isn't brought to justice), but let's slice that out and only look at the economics. What does it cost?

I am just this guy Steve. IANAL. I find it plausible that I may be accused of something, sometime. I have been in too many jurisdictions where they matched who was in custody with open crimes to clear cases. I don't care if it bankrupts the entire country. If I didn't do, it I don't want to go to jail for it. Yes my freedom is worth trillions of taxpayer money.
I fear a prosecutor that KNOWS I'm "guilty of something" so whatever he has open is ok to pin on me. I would have to rake a public defender and the prosecutor would hype the charge to x so I would take plea bargain Most PDs are good but would not humiliate a DA because they have to work within that system


It is just as unjust to procure the acquittal of a guilty person as the conviction of an innocent one.

Unless you are that one. Steve if you are so worried about the cost to taxpayers go confess to something. Us innocent citizens have no desire to be convicted of anything at any price.
4.8.2008 10:32pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
But none of them appear to be DNA cases. Certainly nothing at all like your hypothetical.


Moving the goalposts, are we? Looking at cjwynes' orignial comment:

>cjwynes: These "innocence projects" are a colossal waste of money, if you actually examine some of these supposed "exonerations" they turn out to be nothing of the kind.


You see that he was not making a DNA-specific criticism. Then who did? You merely need to scroll down to the next comment.

>davidbernstein: Wow, CJ's comments are pretty revealing, especially since a very large percentage of the exonerations by "so called innocence projects" are based on DNA evidence excluding the convicted individual from being the perpetrator.


CJ in response to this provided a DNA-based hypothetical situation where having an adverse DNA result wouldn't be proof of innocence, but merely means that *one* of the many pieces of evidence failed to stand up to later scrutiny.

Now, a reasonable criticism of that hypothetical would be asking how likely that scenario would be... that innocence project folks wouldn't care about the rest of the evidence of guilt and instead focus on freeing a person who's probably guilty.

One could even imagine a person at the opposite extreme of Henry Wade, who might in the worst case indeed affirmatively *rely* on the fact that the rest of the evidence would decay (witnesses who die or move away, lost records) and just go for raw numbers of exonerations. He would justify his falsehoods to himself, thinking he's doing it for the greater good, to "shock the conscience" of America and make changes in how people are prosecuted.

But for some people, reasonable criticisms of the hypothetical just aren't good enough:

>hattio1: In other words, as long as the prosecutor can come up with some slightly plausible story, we should assume that the people arent' innocent.


Of course, CJ's hypothetical included additional evidence like verbal threats to kill, bloody clothes, etc but who cares about such trifling details when you are on the side of the forces of light?

So, you dismiss CJ's hypothetical on grounds that rely on no one actually reading the hypothetical, and you dismiss his actual examples because it doesn't match a narrow category (DNA-based exonerations only) that one of his critics proposed.

Almost smells like an agenda in here.
4.8.2008 11:58pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
When reading the original post and the linked article, my first and only thought was "Finally, someone's going to pay attention to doing justice instead of just going for the result they want". This blissful ignorance lasted until reading the comments here, where the mindsets of those kinds of people supporting such movements was made apparent.

From the level of fanaticism displayed here, it now looks we'll merely trade the assumption that everyone accused is guilty for its polar opposite, with no one trying to meet in the middle.

Make no mistake, prosecutors who don't knowingly convict the innocent is an unalloyed good. But we don't live in a world where you always know who's innocent and who's not... so how common is the "I know he's innocent and I'm going to convict anyway" rogue prosecutor, truly?

As commenters on this thread have shown, there are fanatics on both the "conviction at all costs" side and the "innocence projects are an unalloyed good and can do no wrong" side.

For example, the more ludicrous attacks on this apparently forbidden idea:

>Milhouse: It is just as unjust to procure the acquittal of a guilty person as the conviction of an innocent one.


There are structural reasons you might want defense lawyers to ignore this dictum (to force prosecutors to always have their ducks in a row when convicting), but no moral reason why setting the guilty free is a good thing. To people with a functional moral compass, this is self-evident. Unlike:

>Ben P: So innocent until proven guilty is turned into "eh, as long as the prosecutor could lie better?"


Yeah, that's EXACTLY what Milhouse said. But the strawman is on the side of the forces of light and hope, so it passes entirely without note from anyone else.

>Vinnie: Unless you are that one. Steve if you are so worried about the cost to taxpayers go confess to something. Us innocent citizens have no desire to be convicted of anything at any price.


Um, where did the "convicted of anything at any price" come from? Surely not Milhouse.

>BruceM: Convicting an innocent person (even a misdemeanor with probation) is far worse than acquitting 1000 guilty people (even rapists and murderers and terrorists).


This one takes the cake, and demonstrates conclusively what previous comments only dared to hint at: that some don't want accuracy in the justice system... they immaturely want absolute proof of guilt in a world that does not provide it to the inhabitants.

Sacrificing accuracy of conviction in order to satisfy an ideological agenda or a person's career goals is abhorrent, and the polarity of the distortion matters not.
4.9.2008 12:30am
kiniyakki (mail):

Convicting an innocent person (even a misdemeanor with probation) is far worse than acquitting 1000 guilty people (even rapists and murderers and terrorists).

Better check your jurisdiction. See n guilty men, by a reasonably bright person who should be known to those who read this blog.
4.9.2008 1:51am
kiniyakki (mail):
On other news - man is it ever hard to convince people that there is plenty of room in the grey. Prosecute at all costs vs. don't prosecute unless you are certain beyond any shadow of a doubt - and even then you probably shouldn't prosecute - just to be a good person. Ryan Waxx is right.

My problem (from a prosecution perspective) is how to weigh the items that tilt towards no proseuction or a really good offer, particularly when I am certain beyond a doubt the person did the crime. In the end it seems like porn, and I know it when I see it - but I wish there was something more certain (for the balancing of the interests that is - not the porn - I could care less about that). Any thoughts on how to make it more certain what merits a reduction/dismissal?
4.9.2008 1:59am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Ryan Waxx, I never said I didn't want accuracy. I don't see how you can conclude that I desire an inaccurate criminal justice system based on my comment. My statement presupposed that there will be inaccuracies, but it doesn't ask for them. I simply believe we should err on the side of acquittal, not conviction. So does the law, it's called the presumption of innocence. I also understand and accept that the presumption of innocence coupled with a high (but not insurmountable) burden of proof means that some factually guilty people will be acquitted.

Smile and be happy whenever a guilty person is acquitted. It's a good thing. It means the government's power is not unlimited. It means the justice system is working (there are other considerations that outweigh mere accuracy). It means our rights are being protected. It means our freedoms are taken seriously. Whenever a guilty person goes free, it's cause for celebration. Systems that merely punish the accused by default have been around since the dawn of civilization, and at the end of the day they're no more accurate than ours. Those systems have a presumption of guilt and err on the side of conviction. Do you really contend such a system would be preferable to ours?

kiniyakki, I picked 1000 because the number of criminal statutes, the number of prosecutions, the number of prisons, and the number of incarcerated people has increased by more than a factor of 100 since the days of Blackstone. So, the 10 acquitted guilty people in Blackstone's day is equivalent to 1000 acquitted guilty people today, taking into account inflation of crime. Crime will always be affected by inflation because as long as it exists (and it always will), legislators will keep increasing criminal statutes, prosecutions, and penalties in response. Note that my "n" is in reference to an innocent person being incarcerated, rather than executed. Certainly, "n" is greater than 1000 guilty people if we're talking about executing an innocent person.
4.9.2008 2:13am
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4.9.2008 3:04am
Prufrock765 (mail):
BruceM:
"Smile and be happy whenever a guilty person is acquitted."

Sir, you just made Ryan's point better than he, or anyone else, could have.
The comment indicates that you exist--or at least reason--completely in the realm of abstraction.
When a guilty person gets acquitted, at least three bad things can be presumed to have happened:
1. Someone made a mistake. Either the prosecutor put on an improperly prepared case; or the judge excluded evidence improperly; or the jury failed in its duty.
2. The victim and/or the victim's family is again victimized. We cede the power to decide guilt and punish trangressions against us to the State in exchange for the promise from the State that, if we are victimized, the State will do what it can to vindicate our interest.
3. A sociopath (perhaps a psychopath) is free walking the streets to attack society again.
4.9.2008 9:14am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Not true.

1. Some cases everyone does everything right, no mistakes are made, but the state simply can't prove it's case beyond a reasonable doubt. It was close, worth a shot, but the state just couldn't do it. They proved it beyond a preponderance of the evidence, they proved it beyond clear and convincing evidence, but not beyond a reasonable doubt. No mistakes were wade, the prosecutor was fully prepared.

2. Not all crimes have victims - in fact, since most crimes are drug crimes, the majority do not. And a guilty person being acquitted and still victimizing the victim is a plot from a dumb movie, it's not something that happens in real life.

3. All criminals are sociopaths? Hardly. In all my years of doing criminal defense I can tell you I have had only one client who may have been a sociopath, and it was a check fraud case (which the prosecutor agreed to dismiss if he made full restitution, which he did). He did not harm anyone, and while I'm not a psychologist, I think the guy is a sociopath for reasons I'll keep to myself. The vast majority of criminals are perfectly sane, they just made a mistake or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Again, since most crimes are drug crimes, most crimes do not involve a victim, let alone require the state to show any intent beyond mere possession. 99.9% of criminals never "attacked" anyone.

It's unfortunate that our system is not 100% accurate, and if there were a way to make it 100% accurate I'd certainly be all for it. But until such time as doubt is completely removed from the criminal justice system, it is a GOOD THING when someone is acquitted. It means we're erring on the side of innocence despite the government's demand for a conviction. That's good, and there's nothing abstract about it.
4.9.2008 9:53am
treebeard (mail):
Bruce M, when you say drug crimes have no victim, do you reject the view that drug addicts are in a sense victims? Isn't that one main reason we penalize drugs in the first place?

When I was in college I actually learned that someone I knew was a drug dealer. (He was not a friend, just someone I ran into sometimes in college. After I learned this, I distanced myself from him.) I then learned from other people I knew that this guy would give people - college students - free cocaine, acting as a friend. He would hang out with them, invite them to try it, etc. He would do this until they became hooked. Then he would start charging them ever higher prices, and on at least one occasion demanding sex for the drug.

Now on one hand, people who tried his cocaine were making their own decision. But I would describe those who he hooked on cocaine as his victims.
4.9.2008 11:32am
Ben P (mail):

Yeah, that's EXACTLY what Milhouse said. But the strawman is on the side of the forces of light and hope, so it passes entirely without note from anyone else.


I freely admit the statement was exxagerated, I was expecting the response to be something like "that's not what I meant."

But it's close enough to the truth that it illustrates the fundamental problem with what he proposed.

As noted earlier, a defense attorney has broader latitude to make arguments, be he is still ethically bound to refrain from making arguments or presenting evidence he "reasonably believes" to be untrue. Even further, he has the ethical duty to take reasonable remedial measures if he knows untrue evidence has been presented.


The prosecutor is (theoretically) held to a higher standard for a good reason. It is his obligation to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If you allow the prosecutor to advance any and all theories as long as they are "not reasonably believed to be untrue" you've fundamentally destroyed the concept of innocent until "proven" guilty, and turned it into a contest between who can more convincingly argue their theories.
4.9.2008 12:00pm
BruceM (mail):
treebeard: selling drugs is a different crime than simply possessing them. But that aside, I do reject the concept that drug users are victims. They knowingly choose to take the drugs, and most drugs are not addictive. Cocaine, opiates, and in some people (depending on the method of ingestion) amphetamines and benzodiazepines are the only drugs that are physically addictive. And it's rare for benzodiazepines to cause addiction. Pot, hallucinogens, Ecstacy, and all other drugs are not addictive.

Addiction is not one of the main reasons we penalize drug use. Even drugs that everyone concedes are not addictive are penalized. We penalize drug use because of religion and racism. Religious people want to preserve religion's monopoly on self-initiated euphoria. If religion has to compete with heroin and oxycodone and cocaine and methamphetamine, it will lose followers (and thus lose revenue). Secondly, we penalize drugs because most drugs come from countries and cultures of people with dark skin. Whether it's cocaine and marijuana from south america, or opium from Asia, drugs are imbued with the cultures of brown-skinned people. Thus they must be banned. But don't take my word for such a bold claim - research the history of drug prohibition leading up to the Harrison Act and you'll see what I mean.
4.9.2008 12:21pm
Prufrock765 (mail):
Bruce I disagree on all points:
1. If the verdict is "not guilty" someone presumptively (note that I did not say "always") made a mistake. Maybe e.g., the prosecutor overcharged the case. Granted there are unforeseen circumstances such as a witness dying or getting cold feet, that could in rare cases result in an acquittal. But the VAST majority of acquittals involve some substantial error on someone's part.
2. I do not know what you mean by "most crimes are drug crimes". It is certainly not the case that most specific state criminal statutes deal with drugs. It is also certain (at least in my jurisdiction) that most charged offenses do not involve drugs, unless you count alcohol.
Most crimes at the state level involve: alcohol; or alcohol and fighting; or stealing. Then, I would say, comes the drug crimes.
I believe that on the federal level you might be correct, but very little of the criminal justice in this country, AFAIK, is done at the federal level.
And this does not even address the argument on the proper definition of "victim" by treebeard, above.
3. I used the term "sociopath" as a non-psychologist, but I meant to denote a person who is, by inclination or compulsion, unwilling or unable to follow the rules of society and respect the rights of others. You seem to think that I meant the same thing as "psychopath". Sorry for the confusion.
Using that as a definition, I have met lots of defendants who are sociopaths. And my point was that it would not be an unwarranted presumption that an acquittal of a guilty defendant released a sociopath onto the streets.

Lastly, your use of the word "whenever" in the quote that I used, binds you to a universal statement. Clearly that statement is false.
4.9.2008 12:29pm
BruceM (mail):
Prufrock765

1. If you've ever tried a criminal case, you'd know that both sides can do a perfect, error-free job and there's no way to guarantee the jury will make the (objectively) correct decision. This is particularly true when you have a high burden of proof to overcome, as a prosecutor does. While it's impossible to try a perfect case, and if you lose you can always think of things that could have been done differently in hindsight, your statement that the vast majority of acquittals involve a substantial error on someone's part implies that all defendants are guilty. Let me ask you flat out - do you believe all criminal defendants are guilty?

2. Go down to your nearest criminal court and look at the docket. Over half the cases will be drug crimes. Possession, distribution, manufacture, or conspiracy to make or distribute. Clearly you're not a lawyer and you've never stepped foot in a courtroom.

3. Not everyone who violates a statute is a sociopath. And not all criminal prohibitions protect the rights of others. Drug crimes being the best example. There are so many laws out there, the average person violates about 20 a day. If I were so inclined, and if I were being paid for my time, I assure you I could find a few felonies of which you are guilty. Are you a sociopath?

It is a horrendously unwarranted presumption that an acquittal of a defendant releases a sociopath onto the streets. First, you are assuming the acquitted defendant is guilty of the crime alleged. Second, you are assuming the defendant is a sociopath.

I don't see how an imperative sentence (telling you to smile whenever X occurs) can be either true or false. It was not a statement of fact, but rather a grammatical command. You may disagree with the propriety of following my imperative, but it's not clearly false. If you had a better understanding of the criminal justice system and didn't base your opinions on a presumption of guilt, you'd agree with me.

I sure as hell wouldn't want you on any jury of mine.
4.9.2008 1:39pm
great unknown (mail):
kinniyakki: thank for the link. Most striking, to me, was the concept that absolute and qualified immunity derives from the "better that n guilty men..." trope. One would almost suspect from reading section V in that article that the author had a tendency to cynicism. Perish the thought.

treebeard: the assertion that drug use has a victim leads to paradox. Since when do we punish the victim of a crime? In any case, the severity of the punishment may often exceed the severity of the "victimization".
4.9.2008 1:43pm
treebeard (mail):
BruceM: "There are so many laws out there, the average person violates about 20 a day."

I'm an average person. Name them. Seriously, name some laws I am likely to have violated today. If you can't because you don't know me, name some examples of laws that you think are often broken by the average person, generally.

Great Unknown: "the assertion that drug use has a victim leads to paradox. Since when do we punish the victim of a crime?"

Good point. I was responding to the notion that drug crimes are victimless crimes. But you're right, possessors are also accused of a crime. My own take, FWIW, is that illegal drug users are victims and not criminals, until their drug use becomes a danger to others (i.e. driving while high, neglecting their children, stealing to support their habit). But the drug pushers and dealers are certainly creating a class of victims.
4.9.2008 2:07pm
BruceM (mail):
treebeard: I'd have to follow you around for a day or so. I see people violate drug laws, mail laws, securities laws, driving laws (tons of them, you can't drive a mile without breaking at least one section of the transportation code) every day. Add inchoate crimes on top of that such as attempt, aiding and abetting, and you get tons of violations. Then add all the trivial and obscure state statutes (I have a book of texas ones around here somewheree) and you'd be shocked at the number of de minimus crimes the average person commits. Granted the vast majority are not serious felonies. But that's not the issue. Every regulation has an accompanying law to enforce it. To guarantee fresh milk, there's a law somewhere that makes it illegal to sell milk past its expiration date. To guarantee accurate gas pumps, there's a law that makes it illegal to sell gasoline based on a temperature different than 60 degrees F (which actually makes the gas pumps inaccurate and screws the customers in areas warmer than 60 degrees).

Not all drug use becomes a danger to others. But i'm certainly gainst driving while under the influence of anything.
4.9.2008 2:27pm
Prufrock765 (mail):
Bruce:
I have mutiple years experience both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, to the extent that that matters.
Your statement was, to quote:
"Smile and be happy whenever a guilty person is acquitted"
YOU assume the hypothetical defendant is guilty.
Also, how else can that statement be read if not as a universal? "If (i.e., "whenever") X is a guilty person; and X is acquitted, then smile and be happy". Thus you are committed to the proposition that in every instance ("whenever")in which a guilty person is acquitted a celebration is in order.

I can not comment on the facts in your jurisdiction, but you are simply wrong that in every county in America, the majority of criminal filings are for drug offenses (again, I say that I exclude alcohol from the category of "drug offenses").
I have tried many criminal jury trials. And while it is possible that an acquittal can result even if the prosecutor tries the perfect case, this is by no means common.
And while I do not believe that all defendants are guilty as charged, almost every (90+%) person charged is guilty of some crime. I would be very surpised if many with extensive experience in law or law enforcement would disagree with that proposition.
4.9.2008 2:33pm
great unknown (mail):
Prufrock765:
And while I do not believe that all defendants are guilty as charged, almost every (90+%) person charged is guilty of some crime. I would be very surpised if many with extensive experience in law or law enforcement would disagree with that proposition.

And this justifies the idea that since "he" is guilty of something, it doesn't really matter that he is legally innocent (beyond reasonable doubt) of the specific crime in question?
Would you propose that if Attila the Hun was on trial for a crime he did not actually commit (he was too busy raping and pillaging to rob the 7-11), it would be ethical for the prosecutor to try to nail him on the robbery charge, despite strong indications that he was not actually guilty as charged?
4.9.2008 2:44pm
Prufrock765 (mail):
Also, Bruce
Given that traffic infractions are by defintion not crimes, please take an educated guess as to the last crime (defined as an offense for which the statutory punishment includes possible jail time) your wife (or closest living female relative--just to choose an everyday person at random)committed.
4.9.2008 2:44pm
Prufrock765 (mail):
unknown:
I was referring more generally to two notions:
--there is often (usually?) a lesser included offense that the defendant is provably guilty of;
and
--I was responding to a direct question whether I thought all defendants are guilty. My answer was a qualified "yes". It was not meant to (and did not) advocate "star chamber" treatment of generally bad people.
4.9.2008 2:51pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
When I was in college I actually learned that someone I knew was a drug dealer. (He was not a friend, just someone I ran into sometimes in college. After I learned this, I distanced myself from him.) I then learned from other people I knew that this guy would give people - college students - free cocaine, acting as a friend. He would hang out with them, invite them to try it, etc. He would do this until they became hooked. Then he would start charging them ever higher prices, and on at least one occasion demanding sex for the drug.
Yeah, I saw that afterschool special, too.

IRL, drug dealers -- at the least the ones who want to be successful -- generally try to be at least slightly discreet. Indiscriminately handing out illegal contraband to potential witnesses is not a good way to be successful.

(It's a lousy business strategy; even if one could "hook" someone -- "drugs" don't really work like that -- there are no guarantees that the person will buy them from you. So you're talking all of the legal risks for a mere chance at benefiting the drug industry rather than you personally.)
4.9.2008 2:52pm
Oren:
please take an educated guess as to the last crime (defined as an offense for which the statutory punishment includes possible jail time) your wife (or closest living female relative--just to choose an everyday person at random)committed.
Fornication and sodomy are a felonies in Massachusetts (probably unenforceable under Lawrence).

There are continuing offenses to worry about, possession of drugs / fireworks is jail time in MA. I bet a creative DA could get me on all sorts of things (poss explosives, improper storage explosives, importation of explosives across state lines . . )

Then there are the truly mundane bullshit, my town makes it a crime (jail!) not to cut my lawn to their standards.
4.9.2008 3:04pm
Oren:
IRL, drug dealers -- at the least the ones who want to be successful -- generally try to be at least slightly discreet.
This is the understatment of the century. Cocaine dealers (given that their crime is a serious mandatory-minimum-having felony) are some of the most paranoid human beings I've ever met.

Furthermore, it has been my experience that nobody really sells drugs. Drugs sell themselves and, in every instance, it is enough to merely have the drugs and people will harass you non-stop in order to get them.
4.9.2008 3:07pm
treebeard (mail):
DavidN: "Yeah, I saw that afterschool special, too. "

It wasn't an afterschool special, it was a real person. The woman he forced to have sex with him so that she could continue the habit was a friend of mine. She couldn't afford to pay his fee. Maybe according to you he wasn't a good (effective or smart) drug dealer. But he existed. And maybe those specials are right once in a while.
4.9.2008 3:18pm
Oren:
The woman he forced to have sex with him so that she could continue the habit was a friend of mine. She couldn't afford to pay his fee.
Taking your version of the facts as true, the situation is quite unfortunate and this guy is a real dickhead. You know it's bad setup when you consider someone 'forced' to have sex instead of continuing a habit that she can't afford (or maybe needs to find a drug dealer with more reasonable prices).
4.9.2008 3:35pm
Fub:
Oren wrote at 4.9.2008 2:35pm:
Taking your version of the facts as true, the situation is quite unfortunate and this guy is a real dickhead. You know it's bad setup when you consider someone 'forced' to have sex instead of continuing a habit that she can't afford (or maybe needs to find a drug dealer with more reasonable prices).
And that's without mentioning the fact that if the drugs were not illegal, the entire scenario would be highly unlikely to occur at all. Nobody is likely to be "forced" to have sex to obtain drugs if they were available at legal market prices (more like aspirin prices) instead of contraband prices.

Prohibition inflates prices of cheaply produced products, and creates economic incentive for criminal trafficking. Prohibition itself makes such scenarios possible.
4.9.2008 5:44pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Prufrock765,

Traffic offenses are misdemeanors, just the lowest grade (at least here in Texas, they're class C misdemeanors). Just because there is no jail time doesn't mean it isn't a crime. As for the states that try to define certain low-grade crimes as "civil crimes" I don't buy that fiction - it's an oxymoron.


"Smile and be happy whenever a guilty person is acquitted"
YOU assume the hypothetical defendant is guilty.
Also, how else can that statement be read if not as a universal? "If (i.e., "whenever") X is a guilty person; and X is acquitted, then smile and be happy".


Yes for purposes of my hypothetical I'm not assuming the defendant is guilty, I'm stating outright that I'm talking about a factually guilty defendant who has been acquitted.

It is not a statement of fact, so I don't see how it can be universally true or false. "When your toilet clogs, get a plunger" is not a statement of fact, it's not true or false. It may be bad advice or good advice, but that's the extent of it.

Regarding "daily crimes" you have to keep in mind that I'm talking about offenses outside of the penal code. Though things like betting/gambling and sodomy (blowjobs) are quite common and usually in the penal code. During March, when "NCAA Championship" brackets are festooned across every wall of my office building, there is a mass, month-long continuing violation of the penal code.

I see people depositing $9,990 all the time, far more frequently than you'd think, to structure transactions to avoid federal currency transaction reporting requirements. They think they're clever (in reality the threshold is anything OVER $10k so a deposit of exactly $10k is not reported and not as suspicious as $9,999.99). I let someone borrow my Texas Crimes outside the Penal Code book, which lists about 6,500 extremely random crimes (water code, agricultural code, finance code, occupations code, government code, etc) outside the penal code in texas. You can go through it and you'd be amazed at how many odd, random things are crimes and how many are so frequently committed (or attempted/conspired/solicited).

Go read through Title 18, USC, and look at some of the odd things that are crimes. Section 48 - no windows wallpaper on your PC of of cats falling out of trees with the caption "HANG IN THERE BABY!" Giving your friend some seeds of a water chestnut plant is in violation of section 46. Melting pennies was recently made a federal crime since the metal is worth more than 1 cent. Mailing dentures/artificial teeth not made/cast by a dentist - violation of section 1821. These are all crimes punishable by incarceration, I should add. There are many other such insanely trivial crimes.

Anyone dealing with securities, whether a broker-dealer or registered rep or financial advisor is violating multiple statutes and regulations every time they talk, move, or breathe. They can only be in substantial complaince with no culpable mental state, but never full compliance. It's impossible.
4.9.2008 6:06pm
Oren:
BruceM, with all due respect to the stupidity of Federal Law, I'm quite sure that State and Local law is considerably more loony.

Illinois State Law requires that bachelors be called 'master' when addressed by their female counterparts.

In Chicago it is illegal to eat in a building that is on fire.

Joliet makes it illegal ($5 fine) to mispronounce the town name.

I could go on, but, at least in Illinois, we have your precious Federal law licked.
4.9.2008 10:40pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Oren: oh absolutely. Like I said, I let someone borrow my "Texas Crimes outside the Penal Code" book so I don't have it in front of me, but there are wacky state laws in it like not using a broom more than 22 inches wide and causing someone to die while being a communist (which if I recall correctly was a capital crime here in Texas).

My point is only that when you take state and federal laws, plus all the accompanying regulations and administrative codes, everyone violates at least 20 laws per day. Most are not serious felonies, though some certainly are.

Let me follow anyone around for a week, and I'll have enough evidence to indict that person for a multitude of state and federal offenses. So this theory that "all criminals are sociopaths" who "cannot or will not obey the rules of society" is incredibly shortsighted. We might get into an argument about there being some laws that we "mean" and some laws that we "don't mean" but tell that to the prosecutor. It would also violate due process to have some laws that we don't intend to enforce, as nobody could reasonably have adequate notice about which are which.
4.10.2008 10:12am
treebeard (mail):
I know this is not the main subject of the thread, but since a tangential topic has developed, I'd like to follow-up with BruceM, Oren, Fub, etc.

I've wrestled for a long time about whether drugs should be legalized (not that it matters what I think; it's purely an intellectual exercise). I agree with the view that if certain drugs were not prohibited, the black market would become irrelevant, prices would go down, and the incentives for crime (whether that of users, i.e. burglarizing to support the habit, or that of dealers, i.e. killing the competition) would to some degree disappear.

And yet... I think legalization would make drug use, especially among the young, more prevalent and acceptable. I would not want cocaine to become something as optional and easy to access as alcohol is now. And I would not want as many people to die from accidents caused by people driving stoned, as have died from drunk drivers. Etc.

But I am not on the "front lines," and don't have much experience in this aspect of the legal world. I just have opinions. I have known drug users in the past, and as I have mentioned I knew one drug dealer who was a very pernicious person. I also went through a period of my life where I was a pot-head, and am glad I moved on because I was beginning to be tempted by other drugs.

I've mentioned a friend of mine, a college girl who became a cocaine addict, and the one who had sex with her dealer. I'm not making that story up. She was an artist, and unfortunately drug use was encouraged among her crowd as a way to achieve creative expression. But the more she got into it, the more her life fell apart. She dropped out of school, and I don't know what became of her.

So could those of you have suggested that prohibition is the problem, or that drug users should not be treated as victims, write something in brief about what you think would work better than our present system? I fully agree that the "War on Drugs" has failed. I even remember reading with astonishment the issue of National Review devoted to legalizing drugs in the 90's. But at the same time, I don't want my city to become like Amsterdam. I've been there, and I saw the heroin users shooting up in the park. And I don't want more college students turning into my friend - her dealer's manipulation of her could perhaps be blamed on prohibition, but her use of the drugs cannot. If cocaine was legal, perhaps she would have been hooked earlier. I honestly don't know.

Anyway, please feel free to comment.
4.10.2008 10:30am
Oren:
Actually, cocaine is just fine (evidence: rich people have been using it forever). It's heroin, meth and pcp that worry me if they are legalized.

Also, there are studies that indicate that driving while (not terribly) stoned is no more dangerous than driving sober. Even if you don't believe this entirely, it's nowhere near driving drunk. Stoned drivers tend to be (over)cautious and consistently underestimate their own driving ability. Drunks think they are invincible, enough said. Link.

I do share your concern that legalizing now will create a tidal wave of drug use that wouldn't have happened absent prohibition from the beginning. I don't how that would play out, but at the current rate at which the war on drugs is going, we'll be there soon enough anyway.

Finally, I think that if we put a fraction of the money currently spend on prohibition towards rehabilitation, treatment and outreach, your friends may have had somewhere to go to help them kick (or control) their habit. Their lives fell apart because they were isolated from society's normal, stabilizing influence. The goal is to bring them back into the fold (and, quite honestly, help them learn to take a bump every once in a while without it turning into a bender).
4.10.2008 3:53pm
hattio1:
Kinniyaki says;

My problem (from a prosecution perspective) is how to weigh the items that tilt towards no proseuction or a really good offer, particularly when I am certain beyond a doubt the person did the crime. In the end it seems like porn, and I know it when I see it - but I wish there was something more certain (for the balancing of the interests that is - not the porn - I could care less about that). Any thoughts on how to make it more certain what merits a reduction/dismissal?


Kinniyaki, you're probably not reading this thread anymore, but I hope you are. I must say that this attitude drives me absolutely nuts. I realize that you title these "items that weigh towards no prosecution" but lets be honest. What you mean is (usually, there will be exceptions) items that seem to indicate the defendant is honest. But, on the other hand, you personally are convinced that the person is guilty. So, you give them a sweetheart deal that they are likely to take. And let's face it, most people when faced with going to trial on a felony (even if they're likely to win) and accepting a misdo time served offer will take the offer even if they're innocent. HOW IS THIS JUST? Did you ever think that maybe the problem isn't with the evidence, but with your gut feeling that this person is guilty? You are a prosecutor. By definition, you assume people are guilty and go after them. Maybe if the evidence indicates serious doubts as to guilt, you should dismiss NO MATTER how convinced you are that they are guilty. Specifically because you are biased. (I'm not saying defense attorneys aren't biased the other way...of course we are).
4.10.2008 4:32pm
hattio1:
Treebeard says;

It wasn't an afterschool special, it was a real person. The woman he forced to have sex with him so that she could continue the habit was a friend of mine. She couldn't afford to pay his fee. Maybe according to you he wasn't a good (effective or smart) drug dealer. But he existed. And maybe those specials are right once in a while.



Sorry, but like the previous commenter, I'm calling bullshit. I'm not saying that your friend didn't tell you this, but I bet she was BSing you. Or at least not telling you the whole story. It's unlikely to me that she couldn't have found another dealer. Just out of curiousity was she hitting you up for money at the time?
4.10.2008 4:41pm
hattio1:
Prufrock says;

I can not comment on the facts in your jurisdiction, but you are simply wrong that in every county in America, the majority of criminal filings are for drug offenses (again, I say that I exclude alcohol from the category of "drug offenses").
I have tried many criminal jury trials. And while it is possible that an acquittal can result even if the prosecutor tries the perfect case, this is by no means common.
And while I do not believe that all defendants are guilty as charged, almost every (90+%) person charged is guilty of some crime. I would be very surpised if many with extensive experience in law or law enforcement would disagree with that proposition.


As to your claim in your first paragraph, I definitely disagree with you and agree with BruceM. Unless of course, you consider charging a crime that you can't prove a mistake. The burden is high. However, I will says that it seems that many prosecutors over-charge hoping that they can then plead down to whatever they think the client is guilty of anyway. I would consider this a mistake, but don't know if most prosecutors would disagre.

As to your second paragraph, it depends on what you mean by experience in law and what you mean by guilty of something. Yes, as BruceM says most people commit 20 to 30 crimes a day. But, if you interpret "guilty of something" to mean guilty of something reasonably similar (i.e., guy charged with rape probably sped that same day) then I would disagree. As to experince in law or law enforcement, I would agree that most cops think that if they charge someone they must be guilty...but this begs the question whether cops have a bias because of their job. Are you including defense attorneys in the "experience in law" portion?
4.10.2008 4:51pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Prufrock: Like I said before, go look at the docket sheet of ANY felony criminal court in any state in America. Over 50% of the cases pending are drug crimes. I have a hard time believing you routinely try criminal cases and yet don't realize this. Have you never looked at a docket sheet? Hell, just sit in a courtroom for an hour and watch defendants marked up to the judge and take plea bargains. Nearly all of them are drug offenses.

treebeard: America was discovered and settled, the natives were defeated and practically wiped out, we defeated the British won our independence, we created a unique constitutional democracy that has served as an example for every country ever since, we pioneered the Industrial Revolution and expanded across the continent, we won World Wars I and II, and we became a world superpower all with drugs being perfectly legal and widely used by everyone. Drugs being legal and cheap and widely available is the normal state of things. Only over the past 75-or-so years has America (and soon thereafter the rest of the world, due to us forcing our drug laws upon everyone else) prohibited drug use. And things have been shitty ever since.

I'm not saying every problem with currently have is due to drug prohibition, but most can be traced to it. Moreover, any claim that society will fall apart if drugs are legalized is false, and demonstrably so. It's not an experiment to legalize drugs, it's an experiment (and a failed one at that) to prohibit them. And they had morphine and heroin and cocaine back in the pre-prohibition days, so please don't tell me things are different now because we have much more powerful drugs. It's just not so.

Every dog wasting time sniffing for drugs is one less dog that could be sniffing for bombs, or biological/chemical weapons. Every cop wasting time on drug crimes is one less cop that could be handling/preventing a real crime. Every dollar that goes into the hands of criminals is a dollar that could go into the US Treasury. We could get rid of the income tax, the IRS, and DEA, and still have our government bring in more tax revenue than it currently does. We could save billions on prisons, since we'd only have about 200,000 people in prison instead of 2 million plus people. We could reduce the non-drug related crime rate because nobody would commit crimes to get drugs or drug money if you could buy a pound of cocaine or heroin at Walmart for $9.95 (plus a few bucks in drug taxes). Less people would use alcohol and thus less people would be obese and have liver damage if better, more pleasant drugs could be easily and legally acquired. We would be more productive since amphetamines (stuff like Adderall) would be available over the counter, stigma-free. Nobody would "have to have sex" for drugs when they could be acquired as easily and inexpensively as a pack of cigarettes. Cigarettes are just as addictive (and more deadly) than any drug, yet nobody whores themselves out for a pack of Marlboros. Why not? Because they're legal. If drugs were legal nobody would overdose or get harmed from tainted/adulterated drugs because the FDA would ensure that all drugs, from heroin to cocaine to LSD to Ecstasy, would be 100% pure and sold in measured, known amounts - no guessing how much is in one tablespoon or one line or one pill. The Constitution will cease to be violated since it's impossible to enforce a law that prohibits people from possessing powders, pills, and plants without violating the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Everyone will be happy except the people in the prison, drug testing, and drug rehab industries who lose their jobs - jobs which should have never existed in the first place. Poor little DEA agent will lose his shiny badge, wwwwaaaahhhh waaah.

But you still think drugs like cocaine shouldn't be as available as alcohol? Alcohol is much worse for you than cocaine is. Alcohol is more intoxicating, more toxic to the human body, and makes its users more annoying to be around than any other drug. There is no way to justify drug prohibition but not alcohol prohibition. And we know prohibition of both alcohol and other drugs does not work. It's an undisputed, provable fact.

I don't mean to sound snippy here. I really don't. But the answer to the question of drug legalization is so simple and so straightforward, there is just no debate about it. There's no longer anything to discuss. There are not two reasonable sides. There's no question about maybe legalizing marijuana but not other drugs. Drug prohibition is a failure every way you look at it, and the only viable alternative - legalize everything and sell it everywhere -
4.10.2008 11:30pm
Oren:
Every dollar that goes into the hands of criminals is a dollar that could go into the US Treasury.
More like 20-25 cents.

I agree with the rest except for the conclusion. I would legalize everything except for meth/pcp/heroin. My theory is the market for the latter two will evaporate (since the whole infrastructure will vanish) and the former ought to be a crime only so that the addicts can be forced into treatment (no jail time, that would make it worse).
4.10.2008 11:40pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Oren: While it's true that drugs cost more when they're illegal, people would buy more when they are cheaper and more readily available. But I suppose a one to one dollar comparison is still not quite accurate.

Why keep heroin banned but legalize stronger opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone and dilaudid and numorphan? Makes no sense.

I don't think there's ever been much of a market for PCP, and if it were legal I'd imagine few people would use it. It's just never been that popular of a drug.

If drugs were legal, being an addict wouldn't be a problem. Addicts should not be "treated" since they can get and use their substance of choice freely, legally, and without danger. Back when drugs were legal, it was no big deal to be addicted to morphine or laudanum (tincture of opium). It's like me - I'm addicted to Afrin nasal spray. But it's not a problem so long as I can buy as much of it as I want for 5 bucks per bottle. Only when Afrin is made illegal and I have to buy it from street dealers for $200 per bottle does "treatment" make any sense as an alternative (prison makes no sense under any circumstance).

This whole "jail or treatment" thing is a false dichotomy - it assumes the drug use needs to stop. It doesn't. People can be physically dependent on drugs and function just fine. No different than chronic pain patients who need to take opioids daily. It shouldn't be a stigma. Children should be sharing pills on every playground across the country. We should teach kids how to safely use drugs (especially needles) starting in first grade. They need to practice proper injection techniques. Clean needles. Understand how drugs work and what happens when they're mixed with other drugs and alcohol. Understand the difference between various drugs.

Rehab/treatment is a product of prohibition. Both are wrong. Of course, if someone decides they no longer want to use drugs, they should be free to seek assistance if they need it to quit. But most drugs are perfectly healthy (assuming they're pure with no street dirt adulterants mixed in them). Alcohol and smoking tobacco are much more harmful than any drug. You can use heroin every day for the rest of your life and aside from constipation, you won't suffer any adverse affects. All the horror stories about "X drug makes your teeth rot out" are just that - horror stories. They're not true. But it works as good propaganda.
4.11.2008 2:09am
Oren:
Bruce, you've gone too far (I seem to say that every thread now).

Having spent plenty of time among drug users (myself included) I can emphatically tell you that your fantasy view that "most drugs are perfectly healthy" is just plain wrong. Some drugs really do cause long-term damage to cognitive processes.
4.11.2008 3:55am
Oren:
^^ I should write a longer response but I'm sleepy.
4.11.2008 4:03am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Oren: some people choose to live an unhealthy lifestyle, a lot of that stems from poverty. Drug use and poverty go hand in hand solely due to prohibition adding an illegality premium to the price of drugs. As you mentioned earlier, drugs cost a lot more when they are illegal.

If my afrin cost $200 a bottle I'd have a lot less money and live a more unhealthy lifestyle. I'd have to eat fast food every day, I would not live in a very clean place, no gym membership, etc. It's just the way it is.

As for "long term damage to the cognitive processes" you have no evidence to support that. I doubt you are around heavy drug users long enough to be able to see brain damage. While not all drugs are harmless, the notion that drugs "fry your brain" (this is your brain on drugs!) is propagandist bullshit. Marijuana might make people get the munchies, and extremely heavy amphetamine use causes dopamine to be released in the brain in heavy quantities, and since dopamine is neurotoxic, it can cause problems over years of extremely heavy use (i.e. shooting/smoking meth a few times a day, not taking a few adderall pills per week). Opiates/opioids do not cause any brain/cognitive damage whatsoever. Heroin (assuming it's not adulterated) is perfectly healthy - far healthier than alcohol or cigarettes any way you want to look at it.

There should be "drug trucks" that play happy music as they drive up to playgrounds. All the kids should scream "Yay Drugs!" as they scamper over to the trucks with $10 bills in hand ready to buy 100% pure heroin and cocaine and oxycodone and LSD and methamphetamine (whatever their drug of choice may be) in little boxes with pictures of circus animals and smiley faces on them. Everyone should love the drug truck. Well, except the guy who drives the icecream truck, as he'll be put out of business.

Until this happens, and until it's accepted (which is probably - never), our society will continue to be screwed up. We'll continue to waste billions locking people up, tossing away our rights and civil liberties, raping the constitution, fostering a drug treatment industry that has no right to exist, forcing ourselves to live in a police state, and diverting resources away from fighting terrorism and other real crime.

Even if you're right (and you're not), a little voluntary long-term damage to the congnitive process is the lesser of the two evils - particularly since it's going to occur anyway.
4.11.2008 10:19am
BruceM (mail) (www):
Just to elaborate on something - I wouldn't necessarily be against a minimum age limit of 18 to buy drugs if it were the price of legalization, but we all know such age restrictions not only do not work, but they make the "forbidden fruit" more attractive and cooler. I think it's bad policy. Especially for something healthier than the alternative of alcohol and cigarettes. If a kid could choose between alcohol and LSD, he's better off with the latter. Yeah he might use both, but kids have limited resources and drugs will always be cooler than cigarettes.
4.11.2008 10:21am
treebeard (mail):
hattio1: "Sorry, but like the previous commenter, I'm calling bullshit. I'm not saying that your friend didn't tell you this, but I bet she was BSing you. Or at least not telling you the whole story. It's unlikely to me that she couldn't have found another dealer. Just out of curiousity was she hitting you up for money at the time?"

The incident was corroborated by others who she confided in. We (a few friends of hers) talked about this because it saddened us, and we debated letting the police know, but we didn't want to get her in trouble along with the dealer. Of course she could have been lying to all of us, but I don't think so. She was a very modest person and she felt ashamed of the sex. But the whole drug experience was exciting to her, and she could barely make ends meet or afford her rent, and so when her money ran out this was what the dealer insisted on. I suppose to use the word "forced" might be too much, but I think he did take a heavy-handed approach, i.e. no more drugs unless you sleep with me.

My understanding, which was limited because this was mostly second-hand information, is that the only other drug dealer at the school had a bad reputation for violence. The dealer that my friend got her coke from was part of her group, i.e. an artistic personality. The other guy was just a scumbag and most people avoided him. What strategy do you suggest she should have taken for "finding another dealer"? Just ask around at the shops?

And she never hit me up for money. She did visit me at my fraternity one time, and it saved me from enduring a long house meeting. I noticed her nose was bleeding, and when I pointed it out she treated it like it was a joke. Shortly after that, she dropped out of school and I never saw her again. I'm not BS-ing. This was a friend, and I hope she was able to piece her life back together.
4.11.2008 1:26pm
hattio1:
treebeard;
I'm hoping she put her life back together too. But I'm still calling bullshit. I think she BS'ed all of you. Just because she told the same story to all of you doesnt' mean it's true. Did she hit up the other friends for money? Maybe it was clear when she went to your frat house that you wouldn't have any money to give her, or that you so disapproved of drugs that you wouldn't. Just because she didn't ask doesn't mean that's not WHY she told you. Did she hit up the other friends for money?
And I don't suggest she come up with another strategy for finding a dealer...I'm suggesting (and hoping) that she chose to quit. But if she had wanted to find coke from someone else, she could have.
4.11.2008 2:48pm
BruceM (mail):
She would have asked friends for money before whoring herself out. I think hattio1 is right.
4.11.2008 3:09pm
treebeard (mail):
I'm not so sure. You assume she's the type of person to ask other people for money. Not everyone is like that, even among drug addicts. People are different. Maybe sex was a more "private" way of dealing with her problem of not being able to afford coke. My impression was that she was very conflicted about her drug use (she enjoyed it, but had moral compunctions), she didn't really like talking about it, she had money problems anyway and had never asked for help, she was with her drug dealer and asked for coke that she would pay for later, and he took advantage of her by saying he would only give her coke if she slept with him. Afterwards she was ashamed and talked about it with a few of her friends, including me. I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt, obviously, and of course her dealer's story would have been different. But I do consider her the "victim" of the drug dealer, which was what caused me to bring up the story in the first place.
4.11.2008 3:51pm
hattio1:
treebeard;
Even assuming I was willing to give her the most benefit of the doubt I can, I still don't think it would have been a quid pro quo. At most it would have been a "hey, stay and party" the dealer knowing/hoping she would put out and her knowing/dreading she would have to put out for sex.
As an aside, she didn't necessarily have to be after money to have told the story seeking sympathy. She could have simply been after sympathy and attention. Or any of 100 other things.
4.11.2008 4:12pm