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GUILTY OR NOT GUILTY?

Should a person accused of a crime have a reasonable chance to prove his or her innocence? In other words, should a person accused of a crime have a fair trial? Most people would believe they should. After all, witnesses can be mistaken, or be tricked, or be deliberately lying, or even bribed by the prosecution. Police and jurors can draw the wrong conclusion from a set of circumstances that look bad. A fair trial can make a big difference to justice.

Judges have the authority to prevent you from calling witnesses on your behalf on the grounds that your theory that someone else committed the crime is "speculative" and will "confuse" the jury. Judges also have the authority to limit your cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, preventing you from getting at the truth that way. With everything the prosecutor presents being deemed relevant, and with everything you present being deemed irrelevant, the jury hears only one side of the story. Many, many injustices are committed in this way. Normally, the jury has no idea how it is being used to give unfair proceedings the appearance of fairness.

Most people would assume that if a person has been convicted, he is actually guilty, and had a fair trial. After all, judges would not allow injustices to go uncorrected, - or would they?

Upon becoming a judge, a new judge discovers that his word is law. People bow and scrape to him. They treat him with respect and fear. They beg for mercy from him. Armed police officers stand by to enforce his every whim and order. Once you have reached this exalted stage, you get comfortable with it. As time goes by, it seems more and more right and just that you should give the orders, and others should obey them. Even though higher courts can overturn your decisions, most people don't have the time, energy, money or knowledge to file an appeal. If they do file an appeal, the higher courts almost never reverse, and when they do, it takes years.

Even if the judge happens to be stupid, or racist, or lazy, or insufferably rude, or mentally ill, almost nobody can dare to stand up to him. His power is too great.

As a group, judges naturally care quite a bit about convenience to the judges. Who doesn't care about their own convenience? The difference with judges is, when judges have a whim or a wish, the judges can transform it into reality, using the entire power of Government that is placed at their disposal. When you have a whim or a wish, you cannot.

A minor form of this problem is that judges control their own work hours. Many of them start late, and leave early. People arrive at court at 8:30 a.m. like they were told, and the judge gets there by 10. A hearing can be in progress, and the judge can adjourn it because he has a luncheon appointment or she wants to get her hair done. People can be forced to come back again and again, for no good reason.

The principle of finality is tailor-made for those who care more about personal convenience than justice. The rule is simple. If you are convicted of a crime and your lawyer files an appeal, you can never again raise any complaint about your case that the lawyer overlooked. No matter how innocent you are, no matter how unfair the trial was, you get only one try. Period.

Appellate court judges get to close off the courts to people, based on the "principle" of finality. When the courts are closed, the judges get to do less work, and get to the golf course early. Instead of having a judge carefully consider the law, the justice, or the fairness of a case, the judge can have a clerk inflexibly apply a rule that kicks everyone out of court regardless of the facts of the case.

As principles go, the principle of "shut up and go away" is unworthy of the great ideals of our society. If I were a judge, I would want to be known for my fairness, not for my ability to prevent pleas for justice from even being considered.

Suppose you were accused of a crime and locked in jail. The lawyer does not try to find your witnesses until the night before the trial. He is unable to find them, or doesn't want to as he is probably being bribed by the prosecution to lose the case. Your lawyer tries to ask a prosecution witness important questions about the case. The judge will not let him. The prosecutor blatantly lies about important facts. Your lawyer fails to object. You want to testify, but you are not allowed to speak the truth about the facts only to agree or not to whatever the prosecutor asks you. The case is over before you have a chance. You know you have a defense, but the judge instructs the jury not to consider it. You are convicted, and the judge gives you a sentence higher than the law allows. Your lawyer fails to object.

The theory is that you have the right to an appeal to correct these problems. But suppose you are appointed the same lawyer for the appeal as you get for the trial? Is he likely to criticize himself?

Suppose your appeal lawyer is not very good. Suppose your lawyer is lazy, or corrupt. Suppose your lawyer never fully reads the court records. Suppose your lawyer never even gets the court records. Suppose your lawyer never reads the latest legal cases. Suppose you tried to fire your lawyer and the court won't let you. Suppose you fire your barrister and he refuses to accept it even though it is put to him in writing. Suppose your lawyer pays a college student to write your appeal, and the lawyer only signs it. Suppose your lawyer actually argues against you, by declaring to the court that you are guilty or that your trial was fair.

Under the principle of finality, none of that matters. If you had one appeal, that is it.
This type of rule treats justice as a game. If you are playing baseball and you get an out, you are not entitled to try it over. If you are playing chess and you move your piece, you are not entitled to take back the move. Now, the same rules apply to law. What is important is not whether justice is done, or whether you were treated fairly. What is important under these rules is that whatever move your lawyer makes or fails to make, you are stuck with the consequences forever.

The case of Mr. H is instructive. Mr. H was convicted of a crime carrying a 2 year penalty. The judge sentenced him to 5 years. Nobody spotted the mistake. The appeal lawyer filed an appeal, but obviously did not know about the 2 year limitation. Eventually, the girlfriend of Mr. H hired a lawyer. A motion was filed in court to reduce the sentence. Based on the principle of finality, the motion was denied. Mr. H serves 3 years longer than he should.

The need to close off the courts to litigants applies only to defendants, not to prosecutors.

Consider also the case of Mr. S. His new lawyer presented a motion that so convincingly explained the injustices in his trial that the trial judge granted him a new trial. The Court of Appeals overturned that ruling, and no new trial was held. The Court of Appeals did not rule that the trial was fair, or that the judge's analysis granting a new trial was wrong. They ruled that the judge erred by considering the motion in the first place, because the issue had not been raised in Mr. S's original appeal.

Suppose, for example, that your lawyer was bribed by your enemy to lose your case. You did not find out until years later, after your first appeal and habeas corpus have lost. The state courts, using the principle of "finality," refuse to let you raise the issue. You come to court because there was "some" evidence against you, it is not clear that every single juror would have voted not guilty if they knew about your lawyer being bribed. You therefore do not have the right even to bring the issue to court. Therefore, you lose.

Finality. Is it coming to your state? If so, don't bother begging for justice. The people who rule you have just ruled justice to be illegal.


British Justice is riddled with error and is often no better than a witchcraft trial. How can you find words to convey what you feel about this whole spiteful business? Consumed with hate, those responsible get pleasure from the outcome and rich on the proceeds.

While the lives of innocent people waste away in British prisons, the crimes of those responsible for this injustice are completely ignored. British justice is often a conspiracy to convict the innocent.


 

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