“As county chairman, I have two policies. One is that we will never encourage anyone to run against an incumbent judge. The other is that neither the party nor I as county chairman endorses (sic) anyone in a contested race.”
Former Dallas County Republican Chair.
To be sure, the quote above could have been said by any party chair. In Texas, we like to think we elect our judges but we really don’t. The party leaders of both parties make sure their incumbents remain in office. Whether or not a judge is honest or competent does not seem to matter. What matters is whether or not he or she supports the party in power.
So why do we have so many ineffective judges?
Anyone who has graduated from high school in the United States has been introduced to the scientific method. From the ancient Greeks, we learned that honest inquiry requires us to look at the evidence, then draw conclusions. It is part of the bedrock of Western Civilization and we know any other approach is invalid.
And yet, that is not how most prosecutors do it. Most prosecutors decide up front who they think the guilty party is, then look for, or interpret the evidence to support their position. Through sample bias, they often overlook evidence that would point them in a different direction. Unsurprisingly, they “find” evidence to support their position and another innocent party is convicted. This same approach even allows prosecutors to convict innocents for a crime that never happened for political reasons. Unfortunately, judges often don’t provide the oversight necessary to contain this approach.
Presumably, most prosecutors went to high school although we can see why some may not believe that.
Most people think it is. Fungibility is the ability to be easily swapped for other things. We can use money to hire people to save souls or slaughter sows; the money doesn’t care. Once it leaves our hands, there is no telling where it goes. We all know that (except some prosecutors).
Suppose you have a good friend named Aloysius, with whom you periodically exchange texts and phone calls. One day, he comes to you and asks to borrow a decent sum of money. He is a good friend and you wish to help but you ask him if you could pay him over time. He agrees and you continue to exchange texts and phones calls about birthday parties, spouses, politics, and sports.
Unknown to you, he uses the money to buy illegal drugs, makes a profit, and returns the money. Are you guilty? Any rational person would say you are not guilty and yet many people are found guilty based on just these circumstances. Somehow, in a court of law, people lose their rationality when the prosecutor tells them to. More and more, if authorities target someone, however innocent, and you can lead them to the conviction of the target, you can be targeted, also, until you give them the testimony they want. Joseph Stalin must be so proud!
Do you think wrongful imprisonment does not affect you? Are you a taxpayer? The June 26, 2017 Texas Tribune reported that Texas has paid almost $100 million in wrongful imprisonment compensation.
These payments are based on a law that did not exist until 2009 so we are talking about $100 million for recent events. Moreover, the law requires the court or prosecutor to declare the wrongfully imprisoned actually innocent instead of not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before receiving payment. Our system is not designed for that. What this means is, if the judges and prosecutors are still in power when the wrongfully imprisoned are acquitted, compensation is not going to happen. This ensures that when dishonest prosecutors and their supportive judges engage in practices which lead to wrongful conviction, there will be no repercussions.
Clearly, having the prosecutor approve payments to the wrongfully convicted is placing the fox in charge of the henhouse.