Now even though Tom McKenna has basically called me ugly and suggested I have a financial motive for being against the incarceration of the innocent, he's a regular blog reader and commenter and so, because I'm a good guy and don't mind being called ugly even by a guy who looks like this...
Tom 'McKenna' More
I'm going to respond to his recent comment on my attack on Josh Marquis. (previous seething posts here and here)
Our argument centers on the absurd numerology Marquis used in a NYT Op-Ed that argued that the error rate in the justice system was incredibly low (See post below for background).
Tom argues that "guilty pleas should be part of the equation, since the question is how well does our system identify and convict the guilty. Guilty pleas are part and parcel of showing that the system works in that the police found the correct perpetrator, the prosecutor charged him with the correct offense, and the defense attorney and the client reached a conclusion that a guilty plea was in the client's best interest."
Now this is an interesting approach, and one I'm inclined to agree to provided Tom agrees with me that pleas to lesser offenses demonstrate error on the part of the prosecutors, and dismissals (which should then be counted as exonerations) demonstrate errors on the part of both police and prosecutors. Under that metric, the system errs about 80 percent of the time. Of course he won't do this. It's the little straw man to introduce the argument...
Look--if you want to understand how absurd the Marquis/McKenna position is, think of it as a football game. There are many plays on which penalties aren’t called, sometimes rule violations are missed, other times a flag is thrown but after the ref’s huddle it’s determined that there was no infraction. Sometimes there is a call that gets reviewed by instant replay. If you’re looking to figure out how disputed calls were accurate, you look at the number of plays challenged and those that get reversed, you don’t divide the number of reversals by the total number of plays by all teams in an entire season. The reason is simple—and mirrors the criminal justice system—only a small number of plays are contested, just as a small number of cases go to trial. If you want to find out how good the truth-finding function of a trial is, look at the disputed calls, not the total number of plays.
This isn't complicated. What it is, is a concerted effort by prosecutorial zealots to mislead. And that's unfortunate for all of us.