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by Peter Moskos

August 9, 2010

In the Windy City, Blowing People Away

One easy way to tell if people have no relation to the criminal justice system is if they believe it actually works... you know, works as in guilty people get convicted after a fair trial, innocent people walk free, and victims feel like justice has been served.

If you believe that, you watch too much TV.

The Chicago Sun-Times is looking back at a particularly bloody weekend in 2008 when 40 people were shot, seven fatally.
So far, not one accused shooter has been convicted of pulling the trigger during those deadly 59 hours from April 18-20 of that year.

Only one suspected triggerman — a convicted armed robber caught with the AK-47 he allegedly used to blow away his boss — is in jail awaiting trial.

Three other victims said they know who shot them but refused to testify.
Refused to testify? Now you might be thinking, "Serves them right if they won't testify." Sometimes indeed, criminals won't testify and it's hard to care too much about them. But other times victims are scared to testify, which is much more troublesome.

But here is where it gets interesting. Let's say you do testify: "After Gamble took the witness stand against the guy who he says shot him, a judge ruled Gamble wasn’t credible because of his criminal record and found the suspect not guilty." Ouch.

How many shooting victims don't have a record (answer: almost none)? But if you've got a bad record your testimony isn't credible? Any wonder why people get away with murder?

Last year, according to the Sun-Times, more than 90 percent of Chicago shootings resulted in no charges. With odds like that, you'd have to be a chump not to kill.


Anonymous said...

Read somewhere that in pre-Katrina New Orleans the conviction rate for murder was 12%. With numbers like that you have to wonder what the threshold is for declaring their system a failure and starting over. I don't think the purpose of the Constitution was to merely make the system go through the motions, human consequences be damned. Cui bono?

Sgt. T.

PCM said...

The purpose of the Constitution was to protect the innocent and severely limit the power of the state.

What part would you actually change to make things better?

Seems to me the problem isn't our Constitution but the War on Drug and its assault on the Constitution. But there I go again...

Anonymous said...

Leaving aside the issue of the War on Drugs, from our current vantage point its difficult to see exactly what could be changed in the Constitution. WRT limiting the power of the state that's a pretty complex issue that just about everyone's going to have heavy opinions about. (Its also beyond our scope here.) WRT protecting the innocent, in the framer's case the innocent were the wrongfully accused, not victims. Not that there a lot of true victims out there. A big percentage of "victims" are volunteers.

One thing I've considered,: I don't think the framers of the Constitution had any concept of recidivists. I'm simply speculating here, but perhaps a mandated graduating scale of increasing bond minimums and mandatory prison time with the accumulation of felony arrests and convictions. Something to account for the Bartleyby's of this world. And yes, this would have to exclude drugs.

As you say, the only people that think the system isn't broken are people that don't have any contact with it. I think my original point is that the legal system (I can't call it a justice system with a straight face) has become a place where the only end is to ensure process is worshipped to the exclusion all other considerations. No system driven by human behavoir can ever be considered perfect or complete, yet we seem to persist in blindly insisting any alteration of a 200 year old document as inconceivable.

Sgt. T