Last year, Brandon Garrett, a professor of law at the University of Virginia studied 200 cases in which people were freed from prison after DNA evidence proved them innocent. He found that erroneous eyewitness identifications were the leading cause of wrongful convictions, occurring in 79 percent of the cases he studied.
In the meantime, famed author and attorney Vincent Bugliosi is calling for the prosecution of President George W. Bush for murder to very little media fanfare. He correctly asserts in an excerpt from his New York Times bestseller, “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder”, that if President Bush lied to get our country to invade Iraq (as most Americans believe), he should be tried for the murder of our soldiers. Bugliosi also highlights Bush’s own attitude as Texas governor that mass murderers deserve the death penalty versus life imprisonment. All of this begs the questions: Why is Troy Anthony Davis still fighting for his life while George W. Bush hasn’t even been indicted? Is American justice truly blind?
Not only does our system of justice seem to favor privilege over true justice -- as portrayed in the two above-mentioned examples -- but legislatures around the country are intent on punishing criminals beyond the scope of the judiciary by denying ex-convicts the right to vote. Yesterday I read an entry in a TV One blog, “Primary Colors” by NPR host and writer Jimi Izrael entitled, “Should Ex-Cons Be Able To Vote”. Mr. Izrael and ONE commenter - a “Mr. G.” - opined that they shouldn’t. All twenty-four other comments - mine included - were in favor of ex-convicts being able to vote. This was my response:
Jimi you are as wrong as wrong could be on this one. I’m glad that your readers have the good sense to call you out on it. You talk about a decision to live “beyond the boundaries of civilized behavior” and brand such folk as “outlaws”. That is PAST behavior - behavior that has been atoned for.
I am a law school graduate who never practiced law, but I can assure you that it truly shouldn’t even matter what crime a person committed. In our system of jurisprudence THE JUDGE AND JURY decide both the GUILT AND PUNISHMENT of the accused - not the legislatures, who has the sole authority in deciding punishment. They tailor the punishments to the crimes and even account for mitigating circumstances. The legislative role is to determine the acts and omissions that constitute a crime and the RANGE of punishments for the judiciary to CONSIDER! Typically, judges are even free to structure their punishments UNDER that bar because we as a society decided they could. For ANYONE to pontificate that ANY individual or governmental entity should have the right to punish a convict BEYOND the decision of the judiciary is both un-American and un-Christian.
If we feel that the judiciary was too HARSH OR LENIENT our address is through the judiciary process of appeal, with the constitutional exceptions of executive pardon and clemency. Additionally, since the judiciary typically make no provision in their sentencing specifically stripping these convicts of their VOTING RIGHTS, they ought to be able to vote even while incarcerated. The judiciaries don’t strip reproductive rights, rights to an attorney if accused of a crime while jailed, parental rights, or any other right upon sentencing. Except in capital cases where they decide to end the convict’s life - they just take their freedom for a specified time.
So laws that restrict convict/ex-convict voting rights - just like mandatory sentencing guidelines - are nothing more than legislatives’ invasions into the purview of the judicial branches of our governments. Through our rights of freedom of assembly, we have only the personal right to shun persons we deem undesirable - not strip them of their voting RIGHTS! You call it a privilege, but did we pass a “voting privilege act” or a “voting RIGHTS act”? The “privilege” aspect only applies to the decision as to what age we will “privilege” people with their “RIGHT” to vote. A “privilege” is what you get with the issuance of a driver’s license. So, again I ask the question. Is justice in America truly blind or is it just me? What say you?