The Innocence Commission: Preventing Wrongful Convictions and Restoring the Criminal Justice System

By Jon B. Gould | Go to book overview

Introduction

In December 2005, the ABC television network issued a press release announcing a new project to “to overturn wrongful convictions, liberate the falsely accused and discover the identity of those really to blame.”1 Rather than heralding an advocacy organization, however, ABC's release concerned a new television series it would air, called In Justice. According to Stephen McPherson, president of ABC entertainment, the show represented

a completely new take on the procedural drama. Focusing on cases of
justice run amok—sloppy police work, false testimony and biased ju-
ries—the show would feature the fictitious National Justice Project, a
high-profile, non-profit organization made up of hungry young associ-
ates who approach their work like a puzzle, a puzzle that's been put to-
gether wrong.”2

In Justice lasted for only thirteen episodes, earning such pans as “cutesy,” “drab,” and “not-so-amazing” from television critics.3 Yet the show's airing marked an important milestone, for its creation reflected a growing recognition in popular culture that the criminal justice system was capable of serious errors. Gone was the presumption found in other shows that police officers, prosecutors, and judges wear white hats. ABC's new offering not only showed a criminal justice system that could imprison the innocent, but it also trumpeted the effort of advocates working against the odds to free convicted defendants.

How did American society reach the point that a writer would feel confident pitching a series like In Justice to a television executive and that one of the nation's major networks would crow about “modernday heroes” who represent the convicted?4 To be sure, no reasonable person doubts that the American criminal justice system is more accurate than not, but American society seems to have moved past the “get

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