Incarceration Nation

When the Justice System Fails You Twice

By Lorenzo Johnson

For many, it’s hard to fathom the criminal justice system failing an individual once, but twice sounds really crazy to them. Crazy it is. I’m living proof.

When a person is wrongfully convicted and suffers an injustice for a period of time, the justice system does not only fail them, it fails all parties in the interest of justice. Okay, mistakes happen in the justice system all the time. Some safeguards that the justice system has in place, for example, hearings, trials and appeals, can correct these mistakes. When mistakes and injustices are not corrected and allowed to stand, a travesty of Justice has taken place. This goes for ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecution misconduct, false testimony, police misconduct and so on.

It’s inhumane for someone to have to endure one wrongful conviction, but to have your sentence vacated and to be released back to your loved ones, only to have a higher court reinstate your conviction and send you back to prison, is out-right cruel and unusual punishment, with total disregard for justice. Not to mention all the damage that has been done to the person who endured the injustice, or their families. Neither taking into consideration the judge/judges who stepped up and corrected the injustice that took place; which makes you think; will the judge/judges who administered justice be hesitant to do it again fearing that the higher judge/judges will continue to override them?

Being someone this has happened to, I speak for everyone who has been wrongfully convicted. Especially for the ones who do not have a voice to get their story out there. That’s why I made it a point to speak about wrongful convictions at events every chance I got while I was home. I’m not the first innocent person convicted, sad to say; I’m not going to be the last. As always, it’s the poor and middle class that suffer from injustice. Wrongful convictions are occurring so often that, there are multiple T.V. channels that now air weekly episodes. You would think with so much financial aid being utilized for wars and aiding other countries, our criminal justice system wouldn’t be as flawed.

In some ways the criminal justice system is like an engine. When an engine has bad oil, there has to be an oil change. The similarity where the criminal justice system is concerned is, a prosecutor is similar to oil or gas for the criminal justice system engine. When a prosecutor is found to be guilty of prosecution misconduct to a point where he/she is responsible for false convictions, he/she should now be deemed bad oil that needs to be changed. This is not the case in the criminal justice system. A prosecutor, who is to blame for a person spending a considerable amount of time in prison for testimony that the prosecution knew to be false, has absolute immunity from civil/criminal charges. Let me go further, he/she keeps their job. So is it a criminal justice system or a dictatorship? Society must know and understand the people we vote for. Keep in mind, lower criminal justice officials have aspirations to one day sit on the United States Supreme Court bench, etc., we don’t want the wrong people in positions to have the last word concerning justice.

—October 30, 2012