I’ve always felt what makes us civilized is respect for the law. And when the law doesn’t work well, it undermines our civilization. That’s why I support the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law (https://law.uc.edu/real-world-learning/centers/ohio-innocence-project-at-cincinnati-law.html), which has the simple goal of freeing innocent people who have been convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.
It’s more common than you think. One reason is because innocent people actually do plead guilty. Ninety-five percent of felony convictions in the U.S. are obtained through guilty pleas, and 18% of known exonerees pleaded guilty to crimes they didn’t commit.
Why? Because they don’t think they can get a fair trial. For example —
In 1996, Rodney Roberts was arrested for assault following a dispute with a friend. He was held in custody for a few days expecting release when he was arraigned for the kidnapping and sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl. The police said she had identified him in a photo array. Following the advice of his attorney, Roberts pleaded guilty to kidnapping to avoid a harsher sentence.
Or because they were initially convicted, then exonerated when new evidence came to light, but the prosecutor wants to retry them anyway. So to regain their freedom, they plead guilty. They get released for time served and the prosecutor improves his (or her) conviction record. Another example —
In 1986, Clay Chabot was convicted of rape and murder based largely on his brother-in-law’s testimony. Chabot’s conviction was vacated in 2008 after new DNA test results proved that his brother-in-law had actually committed the crime. But despite this clear evidence of Chabot’s innocence, the state indicated it may retry him. Instead of risking a new trial, Chabot accepted a guilty plea and was sentenced to time served.
If you find this disturbing, please see “Why Do Innocent People Plead Guilty To Crimes They Didn’t Commit?” at https://www.guiltypleaproblem.org/ . (The examples were quoted from that site.) There you can listen to a judge explain the problem, and you’ll be invited to join the Innocence Movement.
The strength of our civilization may depend on it.