The real deal about prosecutors...

This story seems to me to capture one of the central problems that defense lawyers have with prosecutors. Though it seems that every prosecutor has learned to talk about how they never want an innocent person in prison, they're only out for justice etc, their actions, rather than their self righteous and self important public statements, regularly belie this claim. The problem is that the public only hears what prosecutors say, and rarely look at what they do. This is a case in point.

Alaska State Prison

William Osborne, a man locked up for more than a decade for a crime he says he didn't commit has been trying for years to get a DNA test to prove his innocence. Conclusive evidence exists, he's able to pay for the test himself but the prosecution has been stonewalling, seeking to prevent him even getting the test.

Their most recent salvo: An attempt to bias the judge hearing the motion to have the DNA tested by introducing a supposed "Confession" made to the parole board who had made it clear to poor Mr. Osborne that if he ever wanted to get out of prison he needed to confess.

He did.

Then they denied him parole.

Tests done in 1993 showed that the critical evidence in the case: semen recovered at the scene matched about 16 percent of the black population, a group that included Osborne. He asked for more advanced testing, but his attorney at the time refused, strategizing that the inconclusive results were in his favor because they showed the semen could have come from any number of people.

Far more advanced DNA tests are available now.
"Let's just get the condom and hair tested," his attorney has said. "That's what needs to be done. If they are so sure they have the right guy, just let us spend our money to get it tested."

Of course, while prosecutors insist that they'd never want to see an innocent man in prison, in countless cases like that of Mr. Osborne--who has already spent over a decade incarcerated for a crime he may not have committed, their actions speak far louder than their words.

They want convictions. They want finality. And if that means that men like Osborne rot, it seems that that is a price that prosecutors, at least, are willing to pay.


Anonymous said...

Now over to Tom McKenna to resoundingly defend this practice.

Anonymous said...

Maybe its because Osborne is guilty....and that may be the reason that prosecutors would rather he stay locked up. Either he lied to the parole board or is lying now...but hey that's okay for defense lawyers isn't it?

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as "lying to a parole board." They tell you that you have to come to terms with what to did to be paroled. If you believed that the only way you could get out was to admit to a crime you didn't commit, you'd be a fool or a saint not to do it.
Prosecutors routinely oppose these sorts of things because they are afraid that a release will set a costly precedent that will mean thousands of expensive and mostly fruitless appeals.

Anonymous said...

this is in response to the second comment. If there is a way to determine conclusively that the man is innocent or guilty and the state wouldnt pay for it then please explain what good reason the prosecutor would have to try and stop it.

Though from the comments I read most of the anon pro-prosecution seem to be prosecutors who are trying like hell to protect their "bretheren" from any sort of unflattering attention on them.