The prosecution has latched onto the Orwellian phrase, “wrongful acquittal,” as in, “Wrongful convictions are bad, but wrongful acquittals are just as bad.” This is their way of rationalizing their passive-aggressive obstruction of reforms that have been recommended for the last two decades by countless psychologists, legal scholars and even law enforcement, not to mention the National Institute of Justice and the ABA .
Here are the minutes of a recent meeting in the District Attorney’s Office:
Chief: The Times has a front-page story about yet another [expletive deleted] scumbag getting off on some DNA technicality. Why can’t they understand? Once we charge somebody, he’s guilty and that’s that.
DA#1: That’s right, Chief. Just because his DNA isn’t there doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. There was obviously a second perp.
Chief: Well, we said that in the Central Park jogger case and it came back to bite us in the butt. The point is, it’s us and us alone who decide who’s innocent and who’s guilty. We can’t allow this undermining of the whole fabric of the criminal justice system.
DA #2: Er, boss, I don’t think you can undermine a fabric. A fabric can be torn, or shredded, or –
Chief: (striking him dead with a wave of the hand) We need a slogan. Something to heighten public awareness of our right to convictions.
DA#3: How about “the trial as a truth-seeking process”?
Chief: That slogan has been co-opted by those interfering shrinks trying to tell us our job instead of staying in their labs putting rats through mazes. The idea that lineups should be conducted by someone who doesn’t know who the suspect is! How’s the witness supposed to make the right choice? Our procedures were good enough for father and they’re good enough for me.
DA#4: You’re so right, boss. Why don’t you say that to the press?
Chief: Because I need to cultivate a progressive image. Supporter of women’s lib and all that. Say, I have it! “Wrongful acquittal!”
All: Brilliant! A stroke of genius!
Chief: How’s this? “Wrongful acquittals are just as bad as wrongful convictions!”
Summer intern: Gosh, isn’t it better that ten guilty persons go free than one innocent person get convicted?
Summer intern: In my bar review outline, they have this case In re Winship, says the defendant’s liberty interests are of transcending value compared to the state’s interest in convicting the guilty.
Chief: (laughing heartily) That’s ridiculous, sonny. What could be more important than throwing people in jail?
Exeunt singing “Gimme those old time procedures.”