Not Guilty: Are the Acquitted Innocent?

Not Guilty: Are the Acquitted Innocent?

Not Guilty: Are the Acquitted Innocent?

Not Guilty: Are the Acquitted Innocent?

Synopsis

A brilliant book that masterfully debunks the conventional wisdom that those who are charged with crimes in our criminal justice system, even when they are acquitted at trial, are almost certainly guilty. It is a data-driven tour de force.OCO --Richard A. Leo, author of Police Interrogation and American Justice. a. OC Givelber and Farrell make a persuasive case that most jury acquittals are based on evidence not emotion, and that acquittals should be taken to mean what they say: that the defendant is Not Guilty.OCO --Samuel Gross, co-author of A Modern Approach to Evidence: Text, Problems, Transcripts, and Cases. As scores of death row inmates are exonerated by DNA evidence and innocence commissions are set up across the country, conviction of the innocent has become a well-recognized problem. a But our justice system makes both kinds of errors--we acquit the guilty and convict the innocent--and exploring the reasons why people are acquitted can help us to evaluate the efficiency and fairness of our criminal justice system. a Not Guilty provides a sustained examination and analysis of the factors that lead juries to find defendants OC not guilty, OCO as well as the connection between those factors and the possibility of factual innocence, examining why some criminal trials result in not guilty verdicts and what those verdicts suggest about the accuracy of our criminal process

Excerpt

This book examines the question of whether those found “not guilty” are actually innocent of the crime charged. We return to a question supposedly resolved definitively a half-century ago when Harry Kalven and Hans Zeisel reported in their classic 1966 monograph The American Jury that judges believed that most jury acquittals were (a) inaccurate and (b) attributable to the jury’s embrace of values. Our criminal justice system was doing its job. Jurors were convicting the guilty except when there was a good reason for them to ignore the formal demands of the law and acquit despite the law. in these cases, jurors were believed to be embracing the values of the community and guarding against the blind application of the law in situations where community sentiment dictated otherwise. This process was hardly benign in all of its manifestations—jurors could ignore the evidence and acquit those who murdered civil rights workers as readily as they could exonerate peace activists who crossed a police line to protest at the Pentagon. On the whole, though, the message was a comforting one—an acquitting jury was likely to have tempered the law with mercy and thus served one of its highest and best purposes.

As a rationalization for the criminal justice system, this view covered “all the bases.” If the acquitted were actually guilty, we did not need to blame the police for failing to correctly identify the suspect or amass the evidence. the acquittal of the guilty might suggest that the prosecutor did not perform admirably, but the more likely culprit in the eyes of the public was the Supreme Court’s overly broad interpretation of the Constitution, which appeared to award criminal defendants unfair advantages both before and at trial. in the view of critics . . .

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