Saturday, March 04, 2006

If it was all good folks in jail, this stuff would be easy for us

"I'm not trying to convince you to like what Larry Flynt does. I don't like what Larry Flynt does." -- Alan Isaccman, The People vs. Larry Flynt

That's the thought that's been kicking around in my head after I heard more details about Stephen Avery and the murder of Teresa Halbach.

Avery has been a semi-celeb here after getting released from prison by the Wisconsin Innocence Project in 2003 after DNA testing proved he didn't rape a woman 1985. Now he's facing murder charges and his 16-year-old nephew's also been dragged down with him, according to one news article that detailed the entire horrifying mess.

One warning -- this is a rather gristly article to read. It made me curl up mentally. I'd suggest visiting Cute Overload after reading the article.

I've been hearing people channeling Nancy Grace and saying that Avery should've been left in prison to rot -- especially since his legal history isn't exactly pristine before the 1985 conviction for rape. While the details of the case horrify me, and my heart goes out to the Halbach family, I can't exactly agree with that sentiment.

Our justice system is based on the idea that we shouldn't convict the innocent in order to ensure that the guilty is also imprisoned. People in prison often aren't the Sunday School teacher that's often used in Lifetime movies. They're people of sketchy personalities and past records who did stupid shit.

Emotion aside, convicting a person wrongly goes against our legal system. Our legal system is based on innocent before guilty -- not "we know this guy's a fuck-up, so we'll put him in jail on this charge and nevermind that there's evidence to prove otherwise."

None of us knew that Avery would be linked to this case (I'm not saying he did it, but frankly, I don't think that Vegas odds look good for the guy. How ironic that DNA got him out and DNA will probably get him back in jail). To say that we should keep people in jail because of their future potential for crime goes against what our justice system means.

Probably the best way to describe this is from Wisconsin Innocence Project,which pulled a picture of Avery off of their Web site:

"Steven Avery has recently been accused of the murder of Teresa Halbach, a 25-year-old woman who was reported missing on October 31. This event has shocked and saddened all who have worked at the Wisconsin Innocence Project, and our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of Ms. Halbach.

In the coming months, the criminal justice system will determine Avery's guilt or innocence in the Halbach case. The Wisconsin Innocence Project ordinarily does not represent criminal defendants at trial and is not representing Avery in the case. The Innocence Project investigates and works on cases involving wrongful convictions, and represented Avery in a case in which DNA evidence irrefutably proved that he was innocent. Avery, who spent 18 years in prison, was released after the Innocence Project got new DNA tests that conclusively excluded Avery and identified the true perpetrator of the crime. That case is described more fully below.

The criminal justice system is not perfect, and cases in which innocent people are convicted undermine the system and the public's trust. Minimizing the risk that innocent people will be convicted remains the goal of all in the criminal justice system, and the Wisconsin Innocence Project will continue to work on that important mission."

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