Lessons we need to learn . . . and spread widely
Janet Davis, one of Ward’s public defenders, made this important observation: “We talk all the time about the presumption of innocence. We act like there’s a huge burden on the prosecutor to overcome that presumption of innocence. But the fact is, jurors tend to think, ‘Why would they have charged him if there wasn’t the evidence? He’s got to be guilty.’”
Couple this general attitude of jurors—the average public—with the dirty tricks pulled by police and prosecutors to get their convictions and maintain their public image. Richard Leo, an expert attorney on false confessions, stated, “Most people don’t know that the police can lie to you. They can completely fabricate evidence.” This is the type of problem for which John Grisham is trying to raise awareness. Thus, the quotation at the start: “We don’t expect the police to play dirty in criminal trials: to hide evidence, to manufacture evidence. We don’t expect the police to do that.” But, he adds, “It happens all the time.”
It is also important to realize that this is not the big city, not the ghetto, not the urban centers. This is taking place in Bible-belt, heartland America. It struck home to me when one of the public defenders, Mark Barrett, stated, “It is amazing to me that people can go to church every day and hear only a limited portion of the Bible that fits whatever the preacher wants to promote. That’s part of the culture of prosecutors in Oklahoma.”
I wish he would have elaborated further on that vignette. What I think he was getting at was that conservative, Bible-believing churches almost universally have an uncritically pro-conservative, “tough on crime,” pro-military, pro-police attitude, and this warps how they view both the Bible and the realities of the criminal justice system in America. This segment of culture tends to defer so much to “our finest” that the idea they would not only occasionally have bad apples, but quite often lie, suppress evidence, pervert stories, manipulate confessions, stack the deck against the defense, and much more, is beyond unthinkable—it is blasphemy. Anyone suggesting such a thing is considered a threat to public order and America and grandma. That person is suspect as an “anarchist” and subversive. And then Romans 13 gets quoted for sure. “Submit.”
There are people who don’t believe that widespread injustice has no consequences.
I’m pretty sure that those people are best described as “functional atheists”.
I hope that, as awareness of these injustices – rooted in Conservative America – comes to light, the conservatives of those areas will decide to fight them.
A decision by Conservative Americans to fight injustice is going to lead them to VERY powerful places.
A decision by Conservative Americans to ignore or support injustice is going to lead them to some VERY powerless places.
The granting of power – and the taking away of power – is in the hand of God.
A God who has a VERY sharp eye for injustice, far more than for ‘breaking the public peace.’