Thursday, January 3, 2008

Booby Lynn, Are You Insane?

Well he better hope that's what a jury thinks, because Bobby Lynn Curtis of Lumberton, TX is facing 5 to 99 years for tumble-drying his girlfriend's 2 year old daughter. See, the child was acting up and...

so he left her in there for a bit, then put her to bed. The burns on her arms, though, they were a problem.

CBS 11 out of DFW has the scoop:

Something's Going On In Texas...

...where they are actively seeking to find out how many people they have wrongly convicted.

It's enough to warm the heart on a cold January day.

It seems that down in Dallas County, they went many years doing all they could to get convictions. They didn't much care whether or not they had the right person, they were just trying to get convictions. At pretty much any cost. So, for example, when trying to solve a rape case, why not put into the photo lineup the mug shot of the guy down the block? After all, he went down for residential burglary a few years ago; he could be a rapist too, right? Nevermind the fact that he has no front teeth; surely the victim could have failed to notice whether or not the man who attacked her had front teeth. She was in shock! Scared for her life!

Well, quite naturally the woman recognized the man. Didn't recognize any others. OK, we got our man! And off they went. Shockingly, she also picked him out of a live lineup! (Or perhaps at that point the question was "Do you see the man you identified from the photos?")

Guess what: that was enough to convict down in ole' Dallas County. 99 years for you, mister.

Except the guy never stopped proclaiming his innocence. Not for 26 years.

So the Innocence Project took notice, and after several inconclusive DNA tests, they were able to do a conclusive test.

It wasn't him.

So, he gets a life now. Not the life he was supposed to have, of course. What he does now at age 47 is anybody's guess. I'm sure he has a settlement coming, but how will he know what to do after that?

And of course what stands out beyond that, is the fact that the real rapist was presumably never caught, unless it was for something else. So down in good ole' Dallas County, it did not matter to them that criminals continued to run free.

All they cared about were convictions. Makes you a little queasy, doesn't it?

Like, how many more innocent men and women rot away in Texas jails because of it?

So, they have now partnered down in Dallas County with the Innocence Project, and they are actively reviewing these potentially sloppy convictions. And they are ticked off. To think that the people placed in the position to protect the innocent and punish the guilty would be engaged in behavior that failed the innocent, failed to find, let alone punish the guilty.

You don't see stories like this every day. In many jurisdictions, New York among them, prosecutors fight against overturning their convictions tooth and nail. They want nothing to do with an active review of potentially sloppy convictions. They often refuse to drop the charges after the convictions are overturned; their attirtude is, we still think we got the right person.

So, let us embrace the openness being expressed down in Dallas County. Let us accept that many of our fellow humans do not belong in jail, and must be freed as soon as possible. Let us insist that projects such as this partnership take place wherever the need is suspected. Let us accept the financial burden, because we cannot bear the moral and psychological burden.

The innocent must be free.

Here is the Dallas News writeup: