Friday, June 04, 2010

A Perfect Game: The Criminal Justice System

Bud Selig did the right thing. Sometimes life sucks and you get screwed. You don't go back and change things.

It's too easy to compare the missed call that robbed Armando Gallaraga of only the 21st game in Major League Baseball's history to the criminal justice system, but what the hell.

Gallaraga pitched a perfect game. The replay shows it, the ump admits it, even Jason Donald, the hitter called "safe" admits it.

Gallaraga pitched a perfect game.

But we will write down that he didn't. He will receive no credit for this perfect game. According to the law, it never happened.

My friend who made the quote at the beginning of this post makes the point. He's got support. Yes it happened, but sometimes the law steps in and poof, it didn't happen.

Any criminal defense lawyer who felt his client was wrongly convicted, has stood at sentencing and heard the judge and prosecutor say over and over again "but the jury found him guilty." Yes, a group of people looked at the evidence and made a judgement call. Human beings came together to decide whether someone committed a crime. Most of the time it's easy. There's a confession, along with witnesses, along with physical or scientific evidence, and the combination of all of it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt

But it's the cases like the missed call that resulted in a "non"-perfect game, cases where there is one witness, who may have gotten it wrong.

Most people will say that a guilty verdict means the defendant "did it," but that an acquittal doesn't mean he didn't do it. That makes sense only in regard to the fact that an acquittal can be the result not only of a jury thinking the defendant didn't commit the crime, but that they don't believe the government proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The latter is less likely, as juries are told to use common sense, which is a way for them to disregard the burden of proof. In sum, if a jury "thinks" the defendant did it, he's guilty.

We've seen a lot of innocent defendants released over the past few years. In a slew of post-verdict cases, there was a prosecutor announcing that "a jury found him guilty." This is spouted even in the face of DNA evidence (our instant replay) proving innocence. The public hears only of the exoneration, not all the hearings where the state tried to maintain the conviction despite evidence of innocence.

We've even had arguments as to whether factual innocence is relevant.

Today the country is crying foul - a man pitched a perfect game and the law prevents us from doing anything about it. It's wrong. It's not fair. But my friend is right - we in this country love law & order so much, that we can say with a straight face that Bud Selig did the right thing. Sometimes life sucks and you get screwed. You don't go back and change things.

And nobody will, regardless of the truth.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter