Thursday, March 20, 2008

Throw the Book at him! No - I mean literally.

"... it's simply wrong to always order [kids] to stop that fighting. There are times when one child is simply defending his rights and damned well should be fighting."

Erma Louise Bombeck

The wrongfully convicted. It's an horrible travesty for any person who must experience prosecution by the State for a crime they did not commit. Thus far, we have seen remarkable examples of cases where such injustice has occurred causing the Federal Government to amend the Criminal Code of Canada by enacting special sections that provide for an application to be made to the Federal Minister of Justice/Attorney General to remedy a possible wrongful conviction.

Some of the more infamous cases that stand out in recent memory are James Driskell, who was found guilty of the 1990 murder of Perry Harder. Paroled in 2003, Driskell was acquitted after DNA samples were shown not belonging to the victim that were allegedly matched to hair samples in his vehicle. David Milgaard was sentenced in 1970 to life imprisonment for the 1969 murder of Saskatoon nursing aide Gail Miller. After 23 years in prison, The Supreme Court of Canada set aside his conviction in 1992. Donald Marshall was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Sandy Seale. After spending 11 years in prison the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal acquitted him in 1983.

A wrongful conviction does not always mean the accused is innocent of the crime. It can simply mean the accused did not receive a fair trial due to an improper characterization of evidence, unreliable testimony, problems with Crown disclosure, police misconduct or wrongful identity. Take the Steven Truscott case for example.

Prior to Canada's abolition of death row, Truscott was sentenced to death at the age of 14 for allegedly murdering a classmate. In 1969 he was granted parole. On August 28, 2007 after overturning his conviction and ultimately entering an acquittal, the Ontario Court of Appeal declared his case "a miscarriage of justice." However, the High Court Justices stated emphatically that the court was "not satisfied that the appellant has been able to demonstrate his factual innocence."

It's an interesting Justice system we have. Some people think it's horrible and failing society while others see it as a fundamental tool to democracy. I am a firm believer in the latter. Without law, there is no order and without order there is no justifiable democratic


Charles LeBlanc said...

Exactly!!! This is the reason I'm going to get to the bottom of my issue of what happen to me at Sweetwaters?

I might have to put a complaint to the Police next week.

Pretty bad....

Mikel said...

An odd quote to start-wouldn't ordering the kids to stop fighting also protect that kids rights? (isn't that what the justice system is for?) It's always up to parents to defend kid's rights since they can't access the court system to do so. To compare it to the bullying example, if you hit me I can sue you and/or have you charged with assault (in fact you'd be charged anyway), but for kids, well, here's a quote actually endorsing that kid getting the snot beat out of him (but at least he was 'defending his rights'). When adults are fighting outside the pubs do we tell cops to leave them alone because 'one of them is defending his rights' (probably the smaller and bloodier one). But maybe the quote was meant sarcastically.

I doubt too many question the validity of HAVING a court system, although many question its form and function.

There is plenty of evidence that the idea of 'jail' serves only to make hardened criminals. Judges have begun to accept that, for example with increased use of 'house arrest'-but even that is often said to be contridictory. Look at the Melanson case, its highly doubtful that forcing somebody to sit in their house all the time and watch TV is going to accomplish much. I would be surprised if a ban on internet use would even stand up to a supreme court challenge on basic rights, you need it in many cases just to find a job.

As for the form, there is considerable evidence that the structure of the court serves as a barrier. Those who don't understand it are at a clear disadvantage. You can look at Bonnie O'dea's case for example. As Charles frequently asks about the poor-how many are in jail simply because they can't present an adequate defense?

I don't know if its intentional, but you almost seem to be saying that critics of the justice system want anarchy in the streets. I don't know about New Brunswick, but lately here in Ontario courts have adopted many of the features of 'native justice'. They call it something different but that's where it comes from. In 'our' court system its a common complaint that victims or victim families never even get the opportunity to address those who have wronged them, leading to feelings of anger that must be expressed at society in general (and usually other criminials).

Then there are the cases like Charles, who is wrongfully arrested and has his rights trampled on yet has no resources to make the state 'own up' to what its done. In other jurisdictions people have successfully sued their governments for such rights abuses for millions, but if you have no money you are at a huge disadvantage.

That doesn't even mention the fact that the officer who arrested him was quite clearly (but lightly) chastised by the judge for lying under oath. That officer was then promoted.

That doesn't even get into the complex issues of lawmaking as canadians clearly don't think those with marijuana should have anything more than a fine for publicly smoking.

Those are just a couple quick examples off the top of my head, I don't think people have such black and white views. SOMETIMES they may think that, like where the guy got jail time for having bear meat in his freezer but the guy who killed people while drinking and driving got off relatively lightly.

A court makes hundreds of judgements a month, the fact of its existence is never an issue, just like problems in health care are never thought to be resolved by simply getting rid of doctors and medicine.

Charles LeBlanc said...

My arrest in Saint John is far from over Mike!!!

Nobody deletes my pictures and gets away with it!!!

I do know we have a problem of the poor being jailed for no good reason.

Are you going to confront this issue General Blogger???