This Week: January 28, 2016

The pursuit of justice and the “truth” about what occurred often have little in common on the inside of a courtroom.  While the Supreme Court has held time and again that the presumption of innocence is one of the most fundamental principles of our criminal justice system, that presumption faces an uphill battle before jurors who, more often than not, are predisposed to the belief that if someone is arrested and charged with a crime, they must have done something wrong.   That presumption is even more vulnerable in a high profile case where the media talking heads and political pundits can poison the well against a defendant before his or her lawyer ever even introduces themselves in jury selection.

Research has shown that jurors often abandon the presumption of innocence as soon as the prosecution introduces its evidence.  It is little wonder then that the closer you get to the inside of a courtroom, the less the “truth” has to do with anything.  One only need to look at the numerous high profile exonerations over the last few years across the country such as Michael Morton, Anthony Graves, and “Making a Murderer” subject Steven Avery, to illustrate just how the “truth” means nothing in a criminal case.  These are cases that went to trial and are only the cases that received nationwide attention, there are countless others in every jurisdiction that never get publicized but are still just as egregious miscarriages of justice.  The problem grows even bigger when you start to look at the number of people who plead guilty every day to crimes they did not commit.  Recently, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office discovered that from 2003 to 2015, 425 people pled guilty to drug crimes that eventually lab reports would come to show they did not commit.  These statistics are a black eye on the nation’s criminal justice system.

This week on Reasonable Doubt we ask the question why innocent people plead guilty to crimes they did not commit?  We will also explore the problems with eyewitness testimony; discuss the aftermath of the “Rethinking Criminal Justice” presentation last week; and look at the indictments of two anti-abortion activists in Harris County following a grand jury investigation where Planned Parenthood was cleared of any wrong doing in last year’s controversial undercover video.  Be sure to join us this Thursday at 8pm with our guest former federal prosecutor now defense lawyer Andino Reynal and criminal defense lawyer Joaquin Jimenez. 

About Jimmy Ardoin

Jimmy Ardoin is criminal and civil lawyer practicing predominately in federal courts both in Texas and across the country. You can find out more about Jimmy at his website, and you can follow him on Twitter @jimmyardoin.