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by Peter Moskos

May 26, 2011

Reasonable Doubt

An NYPD officer were acquitted of rape today. Did I think he's guilty? Yeah, I do. But I'm not surprised he was acquitted. (He and his partner were found guilty of lesser charges and promptly fired.) In fact, last week I predicted this exact outcome (but just to my class... you'll have to take my word). Why? because even I had doubt. You might even say "reasonable doubt." Apparently the jury thought similarly. And that's enough to acquit.

It's not easy to convict in this country. Especially if the accused has a good lawyer. Whether that's good or bad, you decide. But that's the way it is. And one reason it's hard to convict police officers is that police know all too well how to play this game we call justice.

I first had doubt after I heard the whole so-called "confession" tape, a secret recording the woman made while confronting the ex-cop outside a police station [which I can't find a link to, but I know it's out there because I heard it... can anybody find me the link?]. It's hardly a confession at all. In some ways, it's consistent with an innocent man simply trying to appease a potentially hysterical woman at his place of employment. Yes, he said he wore a condom. But it was only after a longer talk where he denied, repeatedly, ever having sex. She said she was only concerned with the consequences of unprotected sex. So finally he tells her what she wants to hear: he says he wore a condom. It's not hard to believe that any innocent man would say the same thing in the same circumstance.

Of course a guilty man might have said likewise. But that's the point about doubt. You don't have to believe somebody is innocent to vote to acquit.

Do guilty people get away with crimes? All the time. A similar but far greater travesty of justice happened when a burglar was later caught on tape admitting to rape. He too was acquitted (stupidly, the jury wasn't allowed to know he had a history of burglary, which was a pretty key piece of evidence with regards to him being in the house!)

And of course being convicted of something and loosing your job is hardly getting away scot-free. But it's usually only big headline news when it happens to police (for instance, how much did you hear about the case I linked to above? Exactly). Don't like it? Blame the criminal justice system. That's what police do all the time.

[Hell, you can even blame O.J. Simpson. His trial set the bar way to high in terms of conclusive "scientific" evidence.]

[Update: Here's a story about the jurors' decision. I'm with this alternate juror: “I definitely thought some funny business went on.... Is it possible they raped her? Sure.” But that's not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.]

1 comment:

El Guapo said...

I served on a jury a few summers ago. It was a trial for a guy charged with armed robbery and related offenses. The prosecution just didn't have enough evidence, and in my eyes, didn't argue a good case (probably because of a lack of good evidence, but it seemed to me that the prosecutor was unable to elicit good testimony from the victim). Was the guy guilty? Most likely. But they couldn't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. While this pales in comparison to what happened in this rape case, and while it must be especially hard for the victim, I felt immense satisfaction, even pride, that I was a part of serving justice. And I recognize that, in my case, as with this rape case, it was justice for a guy that probably didn't deserve it. But this is our system.