What Conflict of Interest?

23:47 Mon 21 Sep 2009
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There are arguments for the death penalty. One significant argument against it is that any human system is going to be fallible and prone to mistakes, and that no amount of mistakes are acceptable when the state executes people as a result.

The judicial system of Texas is providing some awfully good support for that argument. Take the case of Charles Dean Hood, currently on death row, whose case was decided by a judge who had an affair with the prosecutor.

Well, people are human, these things happen, but there’s a system in place to guard against such misconduct, right? In Texas the Criminal Court of Appeals is where Hood’s case would end up—except that the CCA essentially said it wasn’t interested.

The CCA stated that they wouldn’t take up the issue because Hood’s lawyers should have raised it at the original trial—a pretty high bar given that no proof of the affair was available then (since then, the judge and prosecutor have admitted it under oath).

It’s bad enough that the justice system is so politicized, that the people involved are apparently full of a sense of entitlement, and that the wheels of the system crush individuals with little regard to its name (as opposed to its smooth bureaucratic functioning). But for these flaws to extend to irrevocable acts of death-dealing is simply wrong. There is no excuse for allowing it to happen, and it’s all the worse for being the result of massive ignorance and blatant pandering to prejudice and the mistaken beliefs that being “tough” prevents crime and that “toughness” requires railroading suspects and denying individuals access to actual justice, or even its semblance.

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