If you listened to your teachers at school, or to your parents at home, you probably think the justice system considers you innocent until proven guilty if you are ever charged with a crime, it does not.
Innocent people are not thrown in jail without a trial. Innocent people are not fined. Innocent people are not victimized by their own government. This is what our system is currently doing. While in theory you may be innocent until proven guilty, in practice you are guilty when the police say so.
Below you will find three stories. Each is a case I personally worked. Each story is true (although the names have been changed) and demonstrates the system wide corruption everyone in the justice system faces.
I had a client whose home was broken into. Lets call him Brett. Brett locked himself in his bedroom with his wife and three week old baby girl behind him. Brett feared for his life and his family's safety. As the drunk and insane intruder began breaking down Brett's bedroom door, Brett fired three shots into the ground, scaring the burglar away. When the police arrived they charged Brett with reckless handling of a firearm and told him he should have killed the man (which is not true).
The prosecutor on this case understood the events, agreed this was outrageous, and promised to dismiss it. However his bosses would not allow it. After all, my client is worth a lot of money to them but not if his case is dismissed (which the judge had to do on motion). Prosecutors receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from people who plea to probation. They have a direct financial incentive to prosecute you even if you're innocent. This is part of the reason 10,000 innocent people are convicted every year in this country.
When I was a prosecutor, a case came across my desk I wanted to dismiss. A man’s sister had been shot in the head. He received word and ran to her house to be with her. On his way into the house, he broke through the yellow crime scene tape. Police arrested him for breaking through it, and he was charged with obstruction. I told this to my boss as I explained why I was dismissing this case. Her reply was….
“Lets see if we can at least get some of the fines out of him.” There's a reason 10,000 innocent people are convicted.
Chris was at home with his fiance and three children when several armed policemen arrived at his home and demanded he give them his three children.
The police were supposed to be taking one child to his biological-mother Cynthia. However, the other two children were not related to Cynthia and were not part of the order. Unfortunately, the paperwork was confusing which caused the police to demand the wrong children.
Chris’s reply was “over my dead body are these two children being taken by anyone" which was not the correct move. He then made the CORRECT move and called 911 and asked to speak to their supervisor. Unfortunately the police were impatient, and hot tempered, so while he was on the phone with their supervisor correcting the mistake, one of the men tackled him from behind and arrested him. He was also charged with the catchall crime... Obstruction.
The prosecutor wanted to dismiss the case. He was a smart young prosecutor who had a good sense of justice. Unfortunately that's why he was fired. He dismissed too many cases.
So a newer younger prosecutor took over and the State of Oklahoma changed its mind about dismissing his case. Instead, the prosecutors offered to let him pay them for 18 months, during which time he would be on probation.
We went to trial. The jury was out for around 10 minutes. He was found Not Guilty, and yet he lost.
He lost because from the moment he was charged, he lost his job making far more than I make . He had to come to court each month for a year and 3 months while the charges of obstruction and resisting arrest remained open to public view.
He lost because the men with guns who were yelling at him and using the F word in front of his crying children, were allowed to take away everything from him, force him into cuffs on the floor in front of his children, and strip him from his home and private life. He had to pay a lot of money to get out of jail, and a lot more money to hire a trial lawyer. He lost his job. He lost his fiance. Nothing ever happened to the police officers.
This is why you are Guilty Until Proven Innocent... All three of these men did nothing wrong, but were victimized by their own government.
The police arrested them, hauled them to jail. The District Attorney kept them locked in the system and said openly in court they did nothing wrong but still had to pay before they would be let go. If this is not Open Corruption, there is no such thing.
In the police system, we need transparency and accountability. All officers should be using body cams and dash cams that live stream to a secure source. This protects officers from false allegations, and citizens from abusive police. And if an officer, I don't know, beats a man's head with the but of his shotgun while the man is handcuffed... we should be able to hold that person accountable and keep them out of the police.
Citizens should be able to see a judge immediately. We don’t expect to make an appointment when we have a medical emergency, we go to the E.R. We shouldn’t subject ourselves to waiting in jail 30 days to see a judge when we feel we are being wrongfully taken off the streets.
In the prosecutorial system, we must remove financial incentives. As well as other mis-guided incentives such as conviction rate, or police union approval. Even judges -the un-biased referees of the court- receive money for their retirement from those who pay probation fees, Giving them a direct financial incentive to move forward prosecuting the innocent. These incentives must be eliminated or we will continue growing a corrupted system.