In a memo exclusively leaked to Appellate Squawk, the National Junta of District Attorneys has directed that that every local DA’s office start a Wrongful Convictions Unit.
Opposition from the rank and file was swift and vociferous. It was as if the Catholic Church told every parish to have a Papal Fallibility Unit.
“‘Wrongful conviction’ is an absurd contradiction in terms,” sputtered DA Honey Hassle in a speech to the Sycophant Bar Association. “Obviously the scumbags we prosecute are guilty or we wouldn’t be prosecuting them. To be sure, they might not be literally guilty of what they were indicted for, but it’s reasonably inferable that they did something wrong to get convicted. Plus, their convictions were affirmed after the highly rigorous scrutiny for which the Appellate Division is known for giving to criminal cases.”
This hurt the Junta’s feelings. They responded with a set of explanatory FAQ’s.
Q. Why should a DA’s Office have a “Wrongful Conviction Unit?”
A. By leaving so-called exonerations to defense lawyers, we DA’s are missing out on valuable opportunities for publicity and, more to the point, funding. What legislator would vote against appropriating a few mil to a DA’s Office to exonerate the innocent? And if we end up never exonerating anybody, it simply means nobody’s innocent.
Q. But doesn’t “Wrongful Conviction” suggest that we did something wrong?
A. Many offices have elected to call it something else, such as, “Thanks to Our Tireless Efforts, We Discovered the Other Perpetrator,” or “Advances in Forensic Science Such as the Pasteurization of Milk Have Enabled Closer Scrutiny of Past Convictions.”
Q. Isn’t it embarrassing to admit that we prosecuted an innocent person?
A. Not really, so long as you wait 20 or 30 years before doing anything. By that time all the prosecutors involved will either be dead or have become judges.
Q. What’s in it for us? Why not let sleeping dogs lie? Or rot in prison, as the case may be?
A. The political hay can’t be overestimated, especially if the conviction was under a previous DA. And when an innocent person is exonerated after 20 years in prison, it gives the public confidence that the system works.
Q. Will admitting past mistakes have any effect on how we do things in the future? Will interrogations be videotaped? Will lineups be administered by a cop who doesn’t know which one is the suspect? Will we have to disclose evidence at a time when the defense can use it?
A. What a ridiculous idea! We can’t exonerate people if we don’t convict them first!