Toward a More Perfect Justice System

A new report from the National Registry of Exonerations reveals that 87 people in jail were exonerated in 2013, the highest number ever recorded. The Registry, a joint effort by the law schools at Northwestern University and the University of Michigan, has documented more than 1,300 such exonerations since 1989. 
 
Now, there are two ways to take this – 87 is a whole lot of people who had the right to expect more from their country than to be mistakenly imprisoned for somebody else’s crime. Our entire system of justice is based on Blackstone’s notion that “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” 
 
On the other hand, it is a testament to the lawyers and professors who spend every day trying – in the words of the Founding Fathers – to “form a more perfect union” by spending their time and resources to free a fellow citizen they have never met simply because it is the right thing to do. 
 
Their efforts seem to be paying off. “Police and prosecutors have become more attentive and concerned about the danger of false conviction,” said Registry Editor and Michigan Law Professor Samuel Gross. “We are working harder to identify the mistakes we made years ago, and we are catching more of them.”
 
The best lesson here comes from Boone County, Mo., prosecutor Dan Knight: “It’s the duty of police and prosecutors to protect everyone in the community, including victims and defendants. We want the process to be as fair and transparent as possible.”
 
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. 
 

Posted: 2/6/2014 1:17:01 PM by On the Merits Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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